Microsoft recently announced plans to develop a subscription-based online cable TV service for Xbox 360, a plan that in my opinion, is very good news. The popularity of ESPN 3 and available shows from NBC and Comedy Central on the video marketplace as well as the incoming Hulu Plus service has only strengthened the notion that traditional cable TV may be as relevant as Paris Hilton (bah… easy joke; couldn’t resist). This is also good news because more TV options (Google TV, Apple TV, satellite, cable, and now Microsoft) means lower prices. In order to compete, those outrageous monthly fees will begin to drop.
In any event, Microsoft is considering several options. They may offer packages of certain channels (similar to the channel tiers that cable TV now provides), or an a la carte menu with premium channels like HBO and Showtime. In either case, the real upshot here is that 360 owners wouldn’t have to hassle with purchasing another cable box. Microsoft is planning to cut a deal with cable providers that would allow the 360 to act as the cable box in exchange for a cut of the profits.
Sadly, we will have to deal with regular cable and satellite prices (which I feel is tantamount to wallet rape) for at least another year, because Microsoft isn’t planning on unveiling the service until at least late 2011.