Microsoft is to team up with several Hollywood studios to offer TV shows and movies to users of the Xbox 360 game console. Microsoft claims that video content will be available to be downloaded through its online video-game service and streamed directly to TV sets.

This service, which will commence on the 22nd of November, will offer shows such as "South Park" and "C-S-I", and movies such as "V for Vendetta" and "Mission Impossible Three." The majority of the content will be available in standard definition, with some in high-definition content available. Naturally, the high-def stuff will be more expensive. The move will allow Microsoft to compete with similar offerings from Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes, which now offers TV shows and movies.

Because the capacity of the 360's hard drive is rather small, Microsoft will not actually sell downloads of the TV shows and movies, rather these will be digital rentals only. Ross Honey, senior director of Microsoft's media, content and partner strategy group, estimated that 750 hours of programming would be available as soon as the service launches, with roughly 1,000 hours available by the end of the year.

"A lot of people have said that one reason PC downloads haven't taken off is you can't easily play back on a TV," noted Paramount digital distribution prexy Tom Lesinski. "This will be a great opportunity to test whether fixing that can create a lot of extra demand."