Microsoft might stop making you pay more to stream video

UPDATE: Microsoft has confirmed this report on its Xbox Wire blog: "Coming in June, anyone with an Xbox will be able to access popular entertainment experiences – whether or not you have an Xbox Live Gold membership. This includes great gaming apps like Machinima, Twitch and Upload, popular video services like Netflix, Univision Deportes, GoPro, Red Bull TV and HBO GO, sports experiences like the NFL app for Xbox One, MLB.TV, NBA Game Time, NHL Game Center and more." See the company's post for more details.

For years, Xbox users who wanted to watch Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, MLB.TV, or other streaming video services via their gaming console not only had to pay the subscription for each of those services, but had to ante up for an Xbox Live Gold premium subscription. A new report from Ars Technica says Microsoft may be thinking about ditching this requirement, since none of its competition charges anything similar.

In the early days of Netflix’s streaming video service, one of the only dependable ways to get streaming video onto your TV was through a gaming console such as the Xbox 360 or Sony PlayStation 3. But even though the PS3—and then the Roku boxes, and smart TVs, and web-connected Blu-ray players, and Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV, and countless others—don’t charge for access, Microsoft has continued to require an Xbox Live Gold membership.

Ars Technica claims that multiple sources at Microsoft are saying the company is tearing down this paywall, and will allow plain old Xbox Live members to stream these services without paying the company any extra.

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In addition to the increased competition from devices that don’t paywall streaming video services, Microsoft has gradually been trying to give people more reasons to pay for Xbox Live Gold. The company recently began production on original video programming, but has yet to reveal how it will make this content available to users. It’s possible that this original content could be put behind the Gold paywall in order to give users a reason to pay the extra cost.

Microsoft has added other features in recent years to make its Gold membership more attractive. Its Games with Gold program gives Gold members two free games a month as part of their subscription. But the games are only available for windows of about two weeks each and Microsoft has yet to include Xbox One users in the program.

Sony’s premium PlayStation Plus membership also includes free games, but there are usually more than two offers for each month (including one per month for PS4), and they are generally available for longer than two weeks. The downside for PS Plus is that any games downloaded via this program can no longer be played once you let your membership expire.

—Chris Morran

This story originally appeared on our sister site, Consumerist.

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