As part of an effort to close the gap with rival Apple in the lucrative market for portable content players, Microsoft said it's adding downloadable television shows from MTV, NBC, Comedy Central, and other outlets to its online Zune store.
The added content also includes offerings from Nickelodeon, Turner Broadcasting, VH1, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Microsoft said Monday. Available titles include South Park, The Office, Battlestar Galactica, Robot Chicken, and Eureka.
Shows are priced at 160 "Microsoft points" per episode, or $1.99.
With the new offerings, the Zune online store's inventory now includes 3.5 million song tracks, 4,800 music videos, 3,500 audio and video podcasts, and 800 TV shows, Microsoft said.
Microsoft has also revamped its Zune community Web site. One new feature gives users the ability to drag and drop their friends' Zune Card social profiles to their Zune music player to find out what they're listening to.
Members also now have the ability to post online reviews of albums and artists, and earn "reputation badges" based on their level of involvement in the Zune community, Microsoft said.
Additionally, Microsoft has upgraded the Zune player's client software. New tools let users sync multiple Zunes at once, create self-updating auto playlists, and organize collections according to genre, in addition to artist or album. Another new feature enables gapless album playback.
The enhancements represent Microsoft's latest attempt to make the Zune a legitimate rival to Apple's dominant iPod player and iTunes Music Store. In recent months, Microsoft has rolled out new versions of Zune that feature enhanced memory and customizable graphics, among other things.
To date, however, the efforts have made little dent in the MP3 market. Researchers at NPD Group say iPod commanded 71% of the digital music player market in the first quarter of 2008, compared with just 4% for Zune.