Xbox users in France to get Canal+ films, soccer

Guests play the Xbox 360 during a preview party at Quixote Studios in Los Angeles May 15, 2007. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

LONDON (Reuters) - More than a million French users of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 will be able to watch films on demand, premium drama and soccer from Canal Plus on their games console thanks to a deal between Microsoft and the pay-TV group.

Microsoft, which is trying to broaden the appeal of the Xbox beyond hard-core gamers by transforming it into an family entertainment hub, last month announced a similar deal with British pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB.

Under Monday’s deal with Vivendi unit Canal Plus, Xbox live members will be able to access video on demand including more than 3,000 films, premium dramas and soaps live and subsequently on demand, and French Ligue 1 soccer games.

They will also be able to use Xbox Live technology to engage with friends via their avatars and chat during games. Xbox Live has a community of 17 million members around the world.

Microsoft and Canal Plus said they would eventually extend the partnership to other Canal Plus products as well as other Microsoft platforms.

The Xbox is a distant number two to Nintendo’s Wii console, which was first to appeal to a broader audience. Sony’s rival PlayStation 3 console also hosts community and entertainment features as well as game-playing.

Microsoft says one-third of those planning to buy an Xbox are female and 42 percent of typical users are parents with children under 18.

Earlier this month, Microsoft unveiled technology that allows Xbox users to interact with the console without a controller, using full-body skeletal mapping. It is unclear when “Project Natal” games and service will be available.

Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Hans Peters