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Xbox One to add digital tuner for free OTA TV in US and Canada

After experimenting with live broadcast TV on the Xbox One in Europe, Microsoft is now bringing free over-the-air TV to users in the U.S. and Canada through a partnership with Hauppauge, which will make a TV tuner that plugs into the console.

As of today, members of the Xbox One preview program in both countries can opt in on this by purchasing Hauppauge’s WinTV-955Q tuner for $80, plus an antenna (purchased separately). Microsoft says a more specific and less expensive $60 model, aptly called the Hauppauge TV Tuner for Xbox One, is reportedly coming in the “next few months.”

This effectively turns the Xbox One into a live TV streaming box, allowing users to bounce live content to the free SmartGlass app. There is no DVR, since there would be no access to the console’s internal storage, though viewers will be able to pause a live program for up to 30 minutes. Microsoft made no mention of using an external hard drive as a potential storage option in today’s announcement.

The move to add live TV seems meant to capitalize on the growing chorus of consumers looking to cut the cable cord, while also realizing the initial vision of the Xbox One being a multifaceted home entertainment device. With dedicated apps like Netflix, HBO GO, Hulu Plus, Comedy Central and now Sling TV, the addition of live TV channels brings in the major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and PBS) offers a fair bit of what cable already provides.

A number of networks and TV providers have already developed and released apps for the Xbox One, but they don’t really offer much in the way of live content, making the TV tuner all the more appealing to cord-cutters. The Xbox 360 could utilize either cable or antenna connections and record programs using Windows Media Center, so there is a legacy behind this move.

In addition to the news about North America, Microsoft will expand its Digital TV Tuner support to 11 other countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland.