First Look: Internet TV Plug-in for Media Center

Posted by sumeethevans on September 29 2007, 9:37 AM. Posted in Windows 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 320x240 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 more.

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 Lounge 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.

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