Microsoft’s Xbox Entertainment Studios took the wrap off its plans for original programming Monday, announcing a lineup that stretches from soccer to Sarah Silverman.
“There are a lot of gamers who are used to actually interacting with the content itself, and what we’re doing is creating high quality, premium content, and then hoping that we also can take advantage of the tech that we already have, with the over 200 engineers in Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Redmond, to create interactive features that offer a new TV experiences,” said Nancy Tellem, Microsoft’s president of entertainment and a former president of CBS Television Studios.
Microsoft has 12 originals in the works and is leaning into its base—millennial males—who spend more hours streaming content than they do gaming on the Xbox. In June, the studio kicks off with “Every Street United,” a street soccer documentary series featuring international soccer star Thierry Henry and launching ahead of the World Cup in Brazil. Tellem hopes Xbox’s massive distribution network—Xbox has 48 million subscribers worldwide—makes the world’s biggest sporting event a likely score for the software giant’s first foray into premium content.
“The most important thing is really creating this social community. So obviously with the use of Skype, you can actually, in your own living room, connect with people on the other side of the United States or the world for that matter, and be able to speak and exchange actually real-time conversations while you’re watching the show,” Tellem said.
Also in the works, a much talked about “Halo” live action TV series based on Microsoft’s popular gaming franchise, produced by Steven Spielberg in partnership with 343 Industries and Amblin Television. The show goes into production in November. It’s one example of how the company plans to leverage its substantial intellectual property developed for Xbox games into video.
In addition to originals, Microsoft is diving into live streaming, starting with the Bonnaroo music festival in June.
“It essentially creates a virtual festival in your own living room,” Tellem said. She noted that fans will be able to flip between different stages and camera angles, go backstage and follow individual artists, all while Skyping with friends to watch remotely together. “The new audience likes the complexity—and the exciting thing is we have a platform that can allow us to tell more complex stories and the audience can dig in as much as they want to.”