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Microsoft expected to add greater TV features to Xbox today – but there’s a catch

Microsoft plans to announce today expanded television-watching capabilities for its Xbox gaming console, reports Peter Kafka at AllThingsD. The updates will allow Xbox users to access more video streaming content. Unfortunately, at least some of the new functionality will require a subscription to cable TV.

The update will essentially turn the Xbox into a kind of cable box, meaning those of you who wish to cut the cable cord won’t find answer for how to do so here. As we reported last month, Microsoft is making a deal with Comcast and Verizon that will allow Xbox users to access shows from those providers through Xbox Live. Microsoft will reportedly also bring shows from HBO, Crackle, Bravo and Syfy channels as well, according to Bloomberg.

Xbox users can currently access Netflix and Hulu’s premium service, as well as AT&T’s U-Verse network through their console. All of those require paying a monthly fee, as well as the $60-per-year charge for Xbox Live.

We’ve already seen similar attempts by cable companies to deliver their product in new ways. Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and ESPN all offer access to their television programming through iPad and iPhone apps. All of them still require paying for cable TV.

So, it would seem that the tenacious grip of cable TV will continue to hold for some time, whether users like it or not. Of course, it’s now possible to get many shows online, but that has a variety of downsides, like added wait time and limited variety, that keep many people from canceling their TV subscriptions entirely. Until users begin cutting the cord en masse, there’s no incentive for cable TV companies to change their ways. But until they do so, it’s unlikely that subscribers will cancel their service. Such is the catch-22 of the modern TV fan – a predicament for which Microsoft will apparently offer no solution.