France Telecom’s Orange Looks To 3D And Xbox For New TV Bells And Whistles

With the growth of over-the-top services that let users access the video they want over the internet (and often, for free), those companies offering pay-TV have to look for more bells and whistles to keep fickle consumers interested in their services. The latest offerings in this area come from France Telecom’s Orange, which has signed deals with Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) to offer Orange TV via the Xbox platform, and France’s answer to Google’s YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG), Dailymotion, for an online 3D channel.

Orange says the Xbox service will include 30 channels via the Xbox live platform, including its on-demand and premium channels that it offers through its Orange TV service. It will be available initially only in France. Meanwhile, the Dailymotion service will see Orange launching a new, free 3D channel on the Dailymotion platform. That will be available everywhere, although the content is all in French.

The Xbox service will include the ability for those who have Kinect for Xbox to use voice and gesture controls with Orange’s TV service — perhaps the biggest way that this differs from the other ways you can already access Orange TV via set-top boxes, connected TVs and the Internet.

While there have been a lot of 3D services and devices launched in the last year or so, it remains to be seen whether this is a gimmicky add-on that comes and goes, or whether consumers really have the appetite for such products. The Kinect enablement, however, is a keeper: the technology has provided a huge boost for Microsoft in the past year and it’s likely we will see more competing TV services entering the market in the year ahead.

For that reason, Microsoft has been busily ramping up its own Xbox/Kinect TV offerings: not only is it enabling TV services itself, but it is signing up IPTV providers, in addition to Orange, to the service — most notably, Verizon and Microsoft have announced that FiOS will also be on the platform.

Gaming consoles are a good channel for pay-TV providers to keep tapping: a survey from Nielsen yesterday revealed that video is already a very popular use of these consoles. In the U.S., 14 percent of Xbox 360 time, 15 percent of PS3 time and 33 percent of Wii time is being spent on video viewing, watching channels like Hulu, Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) and ESPN.

And IPTV providers really need all the help they can get: they launched services relatively late compared to other pay-TV products from satellite and cable providers, in addition to all the OTT competition. Pyramid Research forecasts that IPTV will be installed in only one percent of all broadband enabled homes worldwide by 2012.

Of course, the Xbox service will also give Microsoft a boost in marketing its consoles in the French market, where France Telecom (NYSE: FTE) is the IPTV leader and will be selling the console in its stores as part of the deal. It looks like it is the only IPTV provider in the market to team up with Microsoft exclusively for the Xbox/Kinect service, at least for now.

Meanwhile, the Dailymotion channel shows how Orange is also using the OTT route to market its own services, and possibly grow its traffic there as well.

The service includes what looks like a selection of content from the carrier’s existing paid 3D channel — which incidentally is also available via the Xbox service. It includes Mag3D, a 30-minute 3D gadget program, as well as some TV and film content. It will also be featuring user-generated content: Dailymotion users have the option of designating their videos as 3D for them to appear in the channel.

As this line-up is designated as “for launch”, there is a chance we’ll see Orange launching more, and possibly paid, services on the channel. It already notes that it will have a mobile version of the service available by February 2012.

Orange, which is a 49-percent owner of Dailymotion, has used the investment to further its business reach online before, including an advertising deal announced earlier this year.