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Microsoft eyes leap back into TV: sources

In New York, USA, Microsoft Corporation is about to back into TV game, but this time MS may aim at cable, satellite and phone companies.

Microsoft has held talks with TV networks to create a new subscription based TV services on its Xbox gaming console that rival efforts by Google Inc, Apple and Netflix Inc.

Microsoft Corporation’s latest explorations after investments in MSNBC and WebTV come as efforts to redefine living room entertainment have accelerated in the past year with technology companies seeking to offer lower cost alternatives to pricey pay TV subscriptions

There is one scenario under consideration by MS is to create a new TV service on its Xbox gaming console that would establish a virtual cable operator, the service will charge a monthly fee for access through the Xbox to networks like ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS, ESPN or CNN according to two sources familiar with plans.

There are other options which include allowing the cable subscribers to use the Xbox to watch shows with more interactive functions, you could use its features for instance messages with friends over the console while you are viewing your favorite shows.

The company also exploring the possibility of creating programming packages for users to setting up a bundle of sports or children shows, in addition, it could sell more individual channels like HBO or Showtime directly to subscribers, it has already Walt Disney channel and ESPN on the Xbox live online service.

They are saying that a service may not arrive for 12 months but early discussions have been productive. Microsoft declined to comment, the people involved in the talks asked not to be identified as the discussions were confidential.

Microsoft’s plans come as the pay television industry are moving to allay investor concerns that users are fleeing expensive subscription packages for cheaper online services operated by companies like Netflix inc and Hulu and both will charge around $8 per month for the streamed shows and movies, the phenomenon is called cord cutting.

The problem is that so called over the top services could undermine the lucrative cable TV industry whose dual revenue stream model has made pay TV one of the most resilient sectors during the economic recession.

Cable networks like ESPN are paid carriage fees by pay TV operators and also earn revenue from advertisers, but programmers have said that they would welcome new types of competition to the cable and satellite companies.

Microsoft has long held aspiration to be a major player in the TV business and has previously invested in MSNBC and interactive television initiatives including Web TV and MSN TV set top box software, MS latest plans include offering interactive features to engage viewers through social media, interactive advertisement and gesture technology by which you can change channels and fast forward through shows by waving your arms or speaking instructions.

Revamped Features of MSNBC.com

The old interface of the site MSNBC is changed with a great modification in it. The old style was outdated as well there was less scope to share news briefly and share good number of photos. But MSNBC now claims that this change will enable the users to enjoy more detail news and updates.

New presentation format emphasizing photos

Among the changes is a new presentation approach that departs from the traditional, print style. The stories will be started with photos or videos from now on wards where the old format started with a block text.

Scrolling features

The “upscroll” feature displays an index when users scroll upward, above the masthead. Story pages are divided vertically, displaying blocks of text, video and photos, plus a section for commenting within the story page.

The related stories and a dashboard are placed below the story which automatically shows the current, most-read topics on the site. Along with this a video player is introduced which enables the users to watch the tools for clipping and sharing snippets. Instead of standard layout templates, MSNBC has about 30 different ad combinations possible on its pages.

Prediction of effect of the change

The owners of the MSNBC are NBC universal and Microsoft are very hopeful about the current change in the sites. NBC universal is world renowned news channel agency who has CNBS, CNBC World, NBC and The Weather Channel as the sister concern of MSNBC. NBC Universal has 82% share of the MSNBC where Microsoft owns rest 18%. Charlie Tillinghast, president and publisher of MSNBC stated, “We lead with the strongest storytelling element.” “It’s a flexible layout that’s done based on the sponsorship,” Tillinghast said. According to them this redesign may lead to decrease the traffic in the sites, but will enable users to stay more time in the site. As it added more text, photos and videos; the users will get more things to stay here. They are not anxious about the less traffic, because they can easily work with less traffic but this would be more effective. “The quality of the ad impressions goes way up, the engagement with the user goes  up,” Tillinghast said. “If that means fewer page views, we’re fine with that.”

The overall feature of MSNBC is now a matter of enjoyment for the viewers because they will be able to get the news with more lively photos and videos.

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