Plugged In

Online entertainment bigger than gaming on Xbox 360

Plugged In

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Microsoft's invasion of the living room is going into overdrive.

Comcast's Xfinity on-demand service, HBO Go and are now available through Xbox Live -- and they're arriving right as the console undergoes a major transition in how people use it.

While the Xbox is still very much a gaming machine, it's now being used more for watching TV and movies and listening to music than it is for blasting opponents in Halo or Call of Duty.

"The original vision for the Xbox was for it to be the heart of connected digital entertainment and it has been amazing to watch the arc," Otto Berkes, a senior vice president of consumer technology at HBO and part of the team that helped launch the Xbox at Microsoft, told the Los Angeles Times.

Over the past year, entertainment usage on the 360 has grown 30 percent. All totaled, Xbox Live gold members spend an average of 84 hours a month on Xbox Live in the U.S.

To put that in perspective, the average household spends about 150 hours a month watching television

The Xbox is no longer just the domain of core gamers, either. Family content consumption has jumped 236 percent in the last year. Zune, meanwhile, has become the second largest transaction service for films, behind iTunes.

The addition of Comcast, MLB and HBO is likely to further boost those numbers. Comcast is the nation's largest cable system and HBO's on-demand system is one of the most robust of any cable company (you'll still need active subscriptions to both HBO and Comcast to watch them on your Xbox 360). The looming start of baseball season often brings a boost to MLB subscriptions, since users can access up to 2,400 games per season and even watch two at the same time.

With the new services, Xbox Live now has 36 music, television and movie services available to Xbox Live members, including channels for Netflix, ESPN, UFC and Hulu Plus.

"We've really seen this amazing explosion at Xbox the last four months that's honestly even surprised our own hopes and aspirations," says Yusuf Mehdi, chief marketing officer for Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business. "What we're seeing is that people are turning on the Xbox to play games and then keeping it on afterwards to get other types of entertainment."

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