Microsoft is said to be planning a Web-based pay-TV service that it can build onto its Xbox Live platform.
The software company is in talks with two dozen content companies, as well as Comcast and Verizon Communications, according to a Bloomberg report. The menu of programming will include music, movies, sports, and TV shows.
Last week, the blog Digiday, citing anonymous sources, reported that Microsoft was nearing a deal with Comcast that would allow Xbox 360 owners to sign up for the cable provider's service and watch its programming from the game console. CNET blogger Don Reisinger wrote, "Microsoft unveiled its live-television service at the E3 gaming expo in June. Although the company provided few details on the service at the time, Microsoft said that it would 'partner with TV providers' for its offering."
The Hollywood studios have long tried to persuade Microsoft to use Xbox Live and the company's successful Xbox video game console into taking a larger role in distributing content. Xbox Live already offers movies and TV shows for rent and purchase.
Bloomberg wrote that Microsoft also expects to sign licensing deals with Time Warner's HBO cable channel, Sony Pictures' Crackle streaming service, and NBC Universal's Bravo network.
Add Microsoft to the group of companies trying to cut into Netflix's large early lead in online-video distribution. Netflix's decision to raise prices and spin off DVD operations has many customers canceling their service and many investors selling off shares. The stock hit a new 52-week low today, at $112.
Microsoft is expected to make its live-TV service available this fall.