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October 7, 2008 12:46 PM

PBS video content to appear on Microsoft online game network, Xbox Live

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

File this under strange bedfellows: PBS, the national public broadcasting network, has struck a deal with Microsoft to distribute select content to Microsoft's audience of 12 million-plus gamers on Xbox Live. The deal, announced today, follows higher-profile content partnerships between Xbox Live and Netflix, among others.

PBS plans to offer full-length, downloadable episodes of "Wired Science," "Carrier," "Scientific American Frontiers," "Nova," and three Ken Burns documentaries, "Jazz," "America" and "American Lives," on Xbox Live. (What, no "Riverdance"?)

In a press release, a PBS exec praises Xbox Live as "a leading source for downloadable video" and its "young and vibrant user base." The deal fits with the organization's strategy of distributing its content broadly, across all media. It has struck similar distribution deals with Apple's iTunes, Amazon Unbox and Vudu, said PBS spokesman Kevin Dando.

A Microsoft exec notes, "Nonfiction programming has performed very well on Xbox Live."

Despite PBS' non-commercial business model for broadcast content, it is charging users to download digital copies of its programs. Dando said episodes of "Nova" and "Ken Burns' America" will be $4.99 each; longer Burns documentaries will be $9.99. The rest of the programs will be $1.99 each.

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