XBox Live vs. the Cable Box: The Future of Live Streaming TV


It’s a common argument in many households: “Let’s dump the cable subscription and save $80-150 per month.” I raise the prospect every year or so with my husband, but we haven’t made the leap yet.

With the news this week from Microsoft launching improved usability, streaming video options and live TV through the Xbox 360 console, we’re one step closer to that goal. For years we’ve had an Xbox; besides playing games, we use it as our DVD player. I love not needing an extra piece of equipment–which is another reason I’m eager to dump our set-top box. As we’ve moved from renting physical discs to the ease of streaming video, we used our Xbox with a Netflix subscription. Now many streaming video services–such as Hulu Plus, Vudu, and Amazon–will be easy to access through Xbox Live.

I’m most excited about being able to see current TV shows as they air, plus movies as soon as they are released on DVD instead of enduring the month-long waiting period imposed by Redbox and Netflix. Starting this week, Xbox Live will begin rolling out new channels alongside their current Facebook and Netflix offerings:

  • Now: Epix, Hulu Plus and Today/MSNBC
  • Later this month: ClearChannel radio stations will be available, along with live Verizon FiOS TV, which includes Cartoon Network, CNN, Cinemax, Nickelodeon and MTV. VUDU will also become a partner, with the main benefit that they offer new movies on DVD release day instead of one month later.
  • In 2012: HBO GO, MLB.TV, and Xfinity on Demand from Comcast, with more in the future.

If you’d been considering an Xbox purchase for the holidays, look for bundle deals that include the Kinect. Using the Kinect, you’ll be able to access your children’s favorite shows and movies in seconds using voice commands, a futuristic feature that saves time and hassle while astounding your kids. Just by searching Bing for a favorite actor–said aloud–you’ll be presented with their movies and TV shows to choose from. The new Xbox interface will more closely match what we’ve become accustomed to with iPads and smartphones.

As the options for streaming video and live TV increase on Xbox Live, keep an eye out for deals on the Xbox Gold subscription, which has an MSRP of $60/year. Current Xbox users will see the new interface for free, but all the new features can only be accessed by Gold members. Even with that cost and a few $7.99/month subscriptions to services like Hulu, Vudu or Netflix, the monthly cost of entertainment through the Xbox is much less than a typical cable subscription. Families may find that they have access to the movies, shows and channels they most want without all the clutter of hundreds of channels offered over FiOS or satellite.

At my house, it’s time to take a close look at what we’re getting with our expensive cable subscription. With our contract up in January, we could switch to an Xbox-based system for $30-40/month and still have plenty of entertainment options.

Are you still a cable subscriber? Does the Xbox news mean a change at your house?

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  1. ChuckG

    3 years ago

    My son use to watch HD DVDs on his Xbox. Once he sold those, he now has to sell his DVDs.

  2. escowles

    3 years ago

    We dropped our cable subscription earlier this year and we’re pretty happy with the streaming video options available. We mostly watch Netflix streaming, or buy shows from iTunes and watch them using our AppleTV. We also watch some video podcasts, and the kids sometimes watch cartoons online.

    The only downsides we’ve seen are not being able to find streaming options for some of the cartoons the kids want to watch, and not being able to watch shows in realtime. The Daily Show, in particular, is delayed until the next day before showing up in iTunes.

  3. jenroland

    3 years ago

    The Xbox equipment is not the most stable (too many red rings of death on mine), but I am happily streaming video on my Sony Blu-ray player. The only thing missing is sports. You can’t get NFL Sunday Ticket anywhere but on DirecTV, and you can’t get the Oregon Sports Network anywhere other than Comcast. Until sports is more easily accessible, we will be slaves to one or the other of those companies (right now it is DirecTV).

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