Microsoft Developing Original TV Programming for Xbox

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is joining other tech companies in the original television programming arena with a handful of new shows that it hopes will eventually evolve into a consumer home entertainment network centered on the company’s Xbox game console and related services, reports Bloomberg. The company already has six original television series lined up, as well as numerous projects in development. The new shows include a street soccer reality show called Every Street United, a sci-fi thriller about life-like robots called Humans, a stop-motion show from the creator of Robot Chicken, and a sketch show that will feature comedians such as Sarah Silverman and Michael Cera. According to Bloomberg, Microsoft will start introducing its television shows on the Xbox in June.

Microsoft will be looking to emulate the success of companies like Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) as it tries to secure its own piece of the increasingly crowded television market. The rapidly growing popularity of Internet-based video-streaming services over the past several years pushed Netflix and Amazon to develop their own original programming. In February, Netflix released the second season of its critically-acclaimed political thriller House of Cards, while Amazon recently expanded its original programming palette with six new series.

Microsoft’s entry into the television market will be overseen by former CBS (NYSE:CBS) executive Nancy Tellem, who was hired by the software giant to run its Xbox Entertainment Studios. While Tellem has some impressive shows on her resume — including hits such as Friends and ER — she noted that Microsoft will likely face big challenges as the new kid on the block in the television market. “This is not an easy business,” Tellem told Bloomberg. “There’s a huge failure rate. You have to get up to the plate a lot. Hopefully we can have a higher batting average than most, but it’s a long process.”

However, Microsoft will try to make its television shows stand out from its competitors’ by taking advantage of the unique interactive capabilities offered by the Xbox game console, reports Bloomberg. For example, Every Street United will include unlockable mini-games that viewers can play. Similarly, Humans will include ways for viewers to access additional footage of the show’s characters outside of the primary storyline. By allowing viewers to interact with the shows across multiple devices, Microsoft is hoping that its users will become even further enmeshed in the company’s products and services.

Unlike Amazon and Netflix, Microsoft is also taking a more targeted approach to its television audience. “We aren’t trying to find something that’s going to be accepted by the largest common denominator, which is what a lot of people in the business look for,” Tellem told Bloomberg. “We’re focused on what we feel our audience on our platform wants.” For Microsoft, this means focusing on an eighteen to thirty-four-years-old male demographic.

It remains to be seen if Microsoft’s unique approach to the television business will result in lasting success. Xbox television studio executive vice president Jordan Levin told Bloomberg that, “Not everything is going to work” as the company tries to find the most effective business model. However, if Microsoft is able to match the success of Netflix and Amazon, it may not be long before the Xbox becomes yet another delivery system for television entertainment.

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