While chewing the fat around the office recently, we got to talking about how we all go about watching films on those rare – oh so rare – occasions where we suddenly find ourselves with a couple of hours to spare.
And the surprising diversity of film-watching habits to emerge from this conversation suddenly made us realise that while we regularly review Blu-ray players, we’ve never really done in-depth investigations from a movie perspective of film-offering alternatives like the Xbox 360 Video Marketplace, BT Vision service and Sky HD receiver.
This seems particularly remiss of us given how people like to bleat on right now about how Blu-ray’s window of opportunity is already getting closed by alternative downloading and broadcasting services.
So today we’re starting to put this sorry state of affairs right, with the first part of what will ultimately be an intermittent trilogy of linked reviews of ‘alternative’ film sources. Starting with Microsoft’s Xbox Live Video Marketplace.
The Xbox 360 is, of course, first and foremost a games console. Indeed, when the console first launched, its potential for offering a film service was nothing more than a twinkle in Bill Gates’ eye, hinted at by the fact that you could download trailers for upcoming games and a few music videos.
Yet on November 22nd 2006, US Xbox 360 owners suddenly found they could download full TV programmes and films via their Xbox Live accounts. And the same service finally went fully live in the UK in time for Christmas 2007.
Since then the volume of downloadable film content has grown exponentially, as new deals have been struck with different content providers (the most recent being Universal in February this year). To date, the number of films available via Xbox in the UK stands at around 200.