The Electronics Entertainment Expo, or E3, the annual games conference and show held earlier this week in Los Angeles, might not be the place for television executives to hang around, but for those that paid attention the writing is on the wall; games console makers are trying to position their connected devices as the hub in the home.
At the Sony PlayStation press conference, Jack Tretton, the president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, made no bones about it: the PS3 is the entertainment hub in the home with 3D games. From day one, the platform has incorporated a Blu-ray player and internet connectivity and Sony has continued adding new features, such as a DVB-T receiver add-on for European customers. Although originally positioned as an advanced gaming device, Sony is now increasingly adding connected TV services. Through the PlayStation Network 3,400 movies and 20,000 TV series episodes are already available and the list is growing. Sony recently announced a deal to make the HBO Original Programming on-demand available on the service. (See Broadband TV News passim)
A day before the Sony announcements, Microsoft announced a major upgrade for its Netflix service on the Xbox offering users the same search and instant watch capabilities as found on the net. The company also announced a deal with ESPN to bring some 3,500 live sporting events to the box, though only in the US, for the time being. Access to ESPN’s broadband programming, known as ESPN3, will be free for premium subscribers to Xbox Live, a premium service. In the US, ESPN3 is available via a number of partner ISPs.
Of course Nintendo doesn’t want to be left behind – as part of its 3D strategy the game maker announced deals with Warner Bros, Disney and Dreamworks to deliver 3D movies to the upcoming 3DS hand-held console.
It might be easy to dismiss the game consoles array into the TV world – but look at on which screens sports are nowadays viewed. ESPN is a major player when it comes to actively pursue multiscreen viewing of its programming. “Second and third screens” like personal computers, smart phones and newer devices like Apple Inc’s iPad are giving sports fans more viewing options, George Bodenheimer, ESPN president, said at the recent Nielsen Consumer 360 conference in Las Vegas. He claims the “other screens” are now delivering 10% of ESPN’s audience to the FIFA 2010 World Cup games. This is in addition to the regular audience, he said.