Gaming trails video viewing, music listening on Xbox Live

Microsoft says the typical household spends 84 hours a month using Xbox Live, and over half of that time is spent watching videos and listening to music.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read
Movies, music, and videos lead usage on Xbox Live.
Movies, music, and videos lead usage on Xbox Live. Microsoft

What keeps Xbox 360 gamers engaged? It's the media more than the hardware, a new report indicates.

According a Los Angeles Times interview with Xbox marketing and strategy chief Yusuf Mehdi, the typical household spends 84 hours each month using Xbox Live to play games and access content. Over half of that time, according to the Times, is spent watching videos and playing music.

"What we're seeing is that people are turning on the Xbox to play games and then keeping it on afterwards to get other types of entertainment," Mehdi told the Times.

Microsoft has been dramatically increasing the amount of non-gaming content available to Xbox Live users. Last year, the company launched a major update to its dashboard, delivering programming from a host of providers, including ESPN, Hulu Plus, and others. Over the last several months, other services have brought their content to the Xbox 360. All told, Microsoft is partnering with 40 content providers around the globe.

Earlier today, the rollout continued, with HBO Go launching on the Xbox. Comcast Xfinity TV and MLB.TV have also been made available to the service.

Microsoft started touting video viewership earlier this year, when the company's Xbox Live programming director, Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb, said 60 percent of United States-based Xbox Live Gold members accessed entertainment applications during December and spent an average of an hour each day using the programs. Hryb also said that during 2011, video viewership on Xbox Live soared 140 percent. He failed to provide exact viewership figures.

As viewership has risen, Net neutrality advocates have descended on the Xbox. In a statement to Ars Technica yesterday, Public Knowledge said Comcast's recent announcement that it won't apply data used through its Xbox-based streaming-video service to its 250GB data caps "raises questions not only of the justification of the caps, but more importantly, of the survival of the open Internet."

The Net neutrality debate has been ongoing for years, with Internet service providers complaining about the cost of data, and neutrality advocates worrying that a so-called "fast lane" would be established to give preferential treatment to services that provide video, audio, or other data-heavy services to customers for a fee. In Public Knowledge's opinion, Comcast might be inching its way toward that lane.

For its part, Comcast said on an FAQ page that the Xfinity TV Xbox Live offering is "being delivered over our private IP network and not the public Internet, (so) it does not count against a customer's bandwidth cap."

As with previous Net neutrality debates, this one won't be solved anytime soon.