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Xbox moves ahead with original programming plan

By DERRIK J. LANG Associated Press

Publication: The Day

Published April 29. 2014 4:00AM

When it comes to original programming, Microsoft is going to throw it at the Xbox and see what sticks.

Nearly two years since launching a studio to create new shows to be streamed on Xbox consoles, Microsoft is ready to serve an assorted helping of original programming this summer for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. However, viewers shouldn't expect Xbox Originals, as they're called, to be available the same way that content is provided on Netflix and Hulu.

"We don't necessarily know what approach will work, and we don't necessarily know what approach won't work," noted Nancy Tellem, the president of Xbox Entertainment Studios during a recent press preview at Microsoft's offices in Santa Monica, Calif.

The event was organized by Microsoft ahead of the company's presentation Monday at the "newfronts" in New York - a digital take on the annual "upfronts," where broadcast and cable networks unveil their upcoming schedules for advertisers.

Tellem, who previously was president of CBS Entertainment, said no decisions have been made as to how each Xbox series will be available - either as part of the $5-a-month subscription, for sale individually or available for free through advertising partnerships. She said an Xbox Originals app would be added to the consoles' user interface.

Among the shows coming to Xbox this year are the street soccer docu-series "Every Street United," which will be the first to debut in July, and the six-part tech-centric documentary series "Signal to Noise." The first installment - "Atari: Game Over" - chronicles this past weekend's excavation of a landfill thought to be filled with copies of Atari's "E.T." game.

The studio previously announced it was working on a live-action series based on the "Halo" sci-fi video game, with filmmaker Steven Spielberg serving as an executive producer, as well as a multi-part "Halo" movie to be executive produced by Ridley Scott.

Xbox also has partnered with U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 to co-produce an eight-episode series called "Humans," an English version of a Swedish show set in a world where robotic servants exist to serve humans.

Other pilots in development include a reality series starring former Australian soldier and shark attack survivor Paul de Gelder; an adaption of Warren Ellis' novel "Gun Machine"; and a variety comedy series.

In addition to "Halo," Tellem said Xbox Entertainment Studios is developing additional shows based on five other Microsoft Studios game franchises: "Age of Empires," "Fable," "Forza," "Gears of War" and "State of Decay."

Unlike streaming content providers such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, which push content to multiple gizmos, Xbox Originals won't be available to view everywhere. Depending on the series, they'll only be streamed on certain devices, mostly the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, but possibly other Microsoft doodads, like the Surface tablet and the Windows Phone 8.

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