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BT Vision targets Xbox gamers for growth

Philips ditched for next gen set-top boxes

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BT is hoping to put a rocket up its slow-starting broadband TV service Vision, by making its movie and TV rentals available on demand to the UK's Xbox 360 owners.

BT has what it calls a "medium term" target of two to three million Vision customers. Since launching in late 2006, it has attracted about 100,000, and looks set to miss its first target of "hundreds of thousands" by the end of March.

The deal with Microsoft, which already provides the Mediaroom platform behind Vision, will see BT's full range of pay TV available and "seamlessly integrated" with the rest of Xbox Live. Console owners will have to subscribe to BT broadband to access Vision, of course.

The Xboxers won't be able to receive or record live TV through the console because it lacks a Freeview tuner. As with all BT Total Broadband subscribers the free standard V-box set-top box will be available as well, however, and can stream live or recorded TV to the console over a home network.

The tie-up was announced by Microsoft at CES in Las Vegas. BT Vision boss Dan Marks said in a statement: "Our aim is to provide BT Vision on multiple platforms. It means that we are able to potentially expand our BT Vision customer base by tapping into the popularity of Xbox 360."

We expect BT to claim a big boost in Vision users once Vision appears on Xbox Live, but it'll miss out on pumping the numbers for the end of this financial year. The service is slated for the "middle of 2008".

For its end of the deal, Microsoft will add weight to its claim that Xbox 360 is a home entertainment hub - in the UK, at least.

In the US Xbox Live offers an own movie and TV download rental and sales service. A similar homebrew service launched in the UK last month, and seems set to go head-to-head with BT Vision for Xbox owners' pennies. There's no word from the pair on any revenue split.

In a separate announcement, BT also said its next generation of set-top boxes will be built by Motorola, rather than the current manufacturer Philips. Unlike the Philips kit, they'll be HD-capable, in line with plans for terrestrial high definition TV over Freeview in 2009. ®

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