ESPN3 Steps Up to the Plate with an Xbox 360 Update


Microsoft continues to focus its living room aspirations on the Xbox 360. For a long time, one insurmountable advantage that Windows Media Center held over the Xbox 360 was access to live sports content. The addition of the ESPN3 app to Xbox Live changed that, and now the Xbox’s ESPN3 app is getting an update that might just convince me to watch some sports. The app gets a UI overhaul that brings navigation more in line with the conventions of the Xbox 360 and would make the app feel right at home on WMC.

Users now have the option to turn on a live sports news ticker that runs along the bottom of the screen. With it running, the app looks for all the world like a standard cable channel, right up until you open the new mini-guide or the full content guide to pick a different stream. For college football fans, there is also an option to track the NCAA football scores, complete with live alerts that will pop up while watching other content and a fly-out scoreboard that can be pulled up with the press of a button. I can see this being a popular feature, though I wish that it was possible to use it for other sports as well. I can see how the live alerts might not work for every sport, but fly-out scoreboards probably would.

There are also a few new features that I have not had a chance to play with yet. One feature that I will leave to my son to try out is the Kinect voice control. He can’t get enough of giving the Xbox orders. There is also a new option to run two streams at once in a split screen mode. Finally, there also options to designate favorite sports and ESPN shows that are then accesible from their own line in the main content guide.

Not being a sports guy, I have never gotten much use out of the ESPN3 app, but playing with it this evening I am struck by how much content the app exposes with minimal clutter and interaction, but at the same time begins to show some glimmers of exactly how much power a major content provider like ESPN can give for customizing content access. It takes a big step beyond simply allowing viewers to browse a media collection like most apps on TVs and media streamers and really begins to provide a complete service from within the app.

Last month I told you about the update coming to the ESPN app on Xbox LIVE.  Today that update is now available. ESPN on Xbox LIVE brings you thousands of live events and highlights, including more than 400 college football games, 31 bowl games and more than 75 exclusive games – close to 50 in the first five weeks of the season alone – from ESPN3, including some of the biggest out-of-market showdowns.

 Xbox Live’s Major Nelson’s Blog