First Look: Internet TV Plug-in for Media Center


Microsoft will be releasing a beta of their new Internet TV
plug-in today (US only), it should be automatically downloaded to your PC and will show
in the TV+Movies strip.  The video
content will come from MSN Video, so you might have seen links to some of the
content off your Hotmail account or after a search on MSN.  Over 100 hours of content is supposed to be
up, and I assume more will come as time goes on.

Since I have been playing with it over the past week, I must
say that it is the most impressive Internet TV application I have used so
far.  The main reason I feel that way is
because it is one of the few that actually have a UI that provides easy
navigation, especially with a remote.

Video quality seems to depend on the specific content, some
of which looks very nice and some of which is so bad I wouldn’t bother
attempting to watch.  There are a few
Halo 3 trailers that looks pretty good (silently above SD), but I watched the
premiere of Journeyman and it looked like it was about 320×240 at 400kbps.  That is clearly not something that I wanted
to watch through a Media Center Extender on an HDTV.

Content is actually pretty good for only having 100 hours
up.  Full seasons of Arrested Development
are up, content from other joint-MSN properties like MSNBC and FOX Sports, a
number of concerts from bands/groups like John Mayer, the Pussycat Dolls,
Oasis, Elton John, and more.  There is
also select content from National Geographic, History, HGTV, bio, A&E, and


All of the content is ad supported with the help of YuMe
Networks, which actually works nicely from what I have seen so far.  Now, I’m not sure how much of the advertising
was live but basically after the video is done streaming I got a quick ad.  90% of the time in my testing, it was a Xbox
360 ad or some sort.  I except more to show up, and I really don’t think it will be bad at all.

Overall, I’m impressed with the Internet TV plug-in just as
I’m impressed with the Sports
that was launched at the beginning of the year.  As long as Microsoft continues to add
content, I can see myself using this often. 
For a platform that gets very few feature updates on a regular basis,
these plug-ins do a pretty good job filling the void.

11 thoughts on “First Look: Internet TV Plug-in for Media Center

  1. Both IPTV and Sports Lounge look great. But my questions is why are they limited to the US? Is it related to content rights, server capacity, other reasons? What makes the hurdles so high?


  2. Images should be up now. Sorry about that.

    Ted: Generally the issue is content licensing, for whatever reasons companies think they should limit content to the US only. I have no idea why, but it is the same reason some want region coding on physical media.

  3. Very interesting to read about this, but please mention that this is US only so that your non US readers don’t get confused about why they can’t find it.

    Content rights may delay a feature like this, but since it’s a global product Microsoft should work harder at making some content available to other regions.

    I’m getting tired of the fact that new features are US only while basic features are still missing for the European market.

  4. Euroboy: Noted.

    Foe anyone having trouble

    1) It is US only, so if you aren’t in the US it shouldn’t download and show up.

    2) Force it….

    Tasks | Settings | General | Automatic Download Options.

    Check “Retrieve CD album art…from the Internet”, Save.

    Go back into Automatic Download Options, select the “Download Now” button near the bottom.

  5. I played with this and it is a nice thing. I could actually get into paying al-la-carte for just the things I like. That having been said, The video quality is iffy. The halo trailers look superb, but watching Arrested Development on my 50″ looked aweful! Hey, I know it’s basically free, so I ain’t complaining too loud, but really, if you are gonna do it, at least make the quality decent.


  6. Content quality should increase over time, but I still wouldn’t expect the quality to blow you way. My guess is that most will be around 480p. At that, they should be able to get this stuff looking rather good (assuming you have an Internet connection that is fast enough).

  7. You know what, 480p would be just fine. I was watching a dvd of “Casino Royale” this weekend and it looked just great on my 50″ Panasonic Plasma through Vista media center. I routinely watch Anime shows (most are TV shows on DVD) and the quality of them is good to even when I use Media center to size them up to fill the screen more. If better quality means having to wait as the system buffers more information I am OK with that. I have a DSL connection, but it isn’t all that fast. I would think that it would be the basic config.


  8. I have to admit I am very annoyed about it being US only, however I have had this problem so often I know see it as being a good thing, because everyone in the US can test it and feedback to Microsoft. And that way the product ends up being a lot better when it’s released in the other continents, however I am extremely miffed still 😀

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