When Microsoft released its digital TV tuner in Europe today, it gave owners of the new device one of the coolest features available on Xbox One: streaming TV to another device, which can be done while still playing a game on the console.
Available only when using the digital TV tuner, the capability lets Xbox One users control every aspect of their TV from the SmartGlass app. The user’s Xbox One will also record the most recent 30 minutes of whatever is playing, allowing users to rewind or fast forward. The best feature, however, is the ability to stream content.
With the new TV tuner, users can stream live shows or entertainment to computers, tablets or smartphones on their network. The quality of the stream can also be changed to meet a network’s needs, with the console transcoding the stream. If a family member wants to play an Xbox One game, the stream will still continue, too – so if someone wants to watch a TV show, he or she can do that on a computer, tablet or smartphone while the console is used for gaming.
It’s a pretty neat feature, but unfortunately it may not be one that comes to the U.S. anytime soon. In August, shortly after the tuner was announced, Neowin asked Microsoft if the capability would come to more regions and was provided the following statement:
The ability to stream TV content to mobile devices depends on a number of factors related to licensing. This feature is launching first in the UFIGS markets, where the Xbox Digital TV Tuner will receive free OTA television. We are looking at how we can bring this to additional markets in the future.
In the U.S., the television industry is now dominated by subscription services, and cable and satellite providers are typically resistant to having their signals retransmitted, even for personal use. For Microsoft to integrate streaming capabilities with these services, it would have to negotiate any licensing issues with the companies. It’s possible the feature could come to U.S. users who get their TV content from over-the-air broadcasts, though that would be a miniscule audience when compared to U.S. cable and satellite subscribers.
Conversely, in the United Kingdom and other European countries, over-the-air broadcasts have a much larger audience because of their television license systems. With these licenses, TV watchers pay an annual fee for the ability to see broadcasts. That fee then typically supports public programming, such as the BBC; in the U.K., that funding also helps eliminate commercials.