Owners of the Microsoft Xbox 360 games console will be able to watch more than 10,000 movies and television programmes, streamed on demand over broadband, following a partnership with Netflix, the largest online movie rental service in the world. The companies claim that the Xbox 360 will offer more movies and programmes on demand than any other device connected to the television.

The Microsoft Xbox online video store already claims to offer more high-definition programming on demand than any cable provider.

“Watching movies at home will never be the same,” said John Schappert of Microsoft. “We are creating a completely new social entertainment experience and Xbox 360 will be the only video game system where you can access your library of instantly streamable movies from Netflix and turn any room into a virtual movie theatre.”

The deal with Netflix was announced at the At the E3 Media and Business Summit in Los Angeles. The service will be available from the autumn, initially only in the United States.

Xbox users will have to be both members of Xbox Live and subscribers to Netflix. They will need to add movies and shows to their individual instant queues or wishlists on the Netflix web site. These choices will be automatically displayed on the television screen via the Xbox 360 and available to watch in as little as 30 seconds.

“For Netflix, it represents an important step forward in making instantly streaming movies on the TV more broadly available to our members,” said Reed Hastings, the chairman and chief executive of Netflix. He became a member of the Microsoft board in March 2007, leading to speculation of a partnership between Microsoft and Netflix, which now has around eight million subscribers.

The Xbox offering will be similar to that which Netflix subscribers can currently get on their computers or on their televisions using the new Netflix player from Roku. The latter has proved popular since its launch two months ago.

Microsoft already has sold more than 10 million Xbox 360 consoles in the United States and around half of them are gold members of the Xbox Live service.

The Xbox will be the only games console to use the Netflix service, but it is likely to be available on broadband connected Blu-ray disc players in the future.