Paraded this week and led by Nancy Tellum, Head of MS's Xbox Entertainment Studios, was MS's strategy in the highly volatile and competitive digital content business. What Microsoft (like all of the other original content providers) has to figure out is what mix of shows to offer, who their core audience is, how much to charge, if advertising is viable, and what are, in MS's case, the interactive features to be offered. The MS team has been hard at work developing a slate of content and has decided to use the shotgun approach. Offered will be a blend of unscripted reality shows, documentaries, dramas, comedies, sports, and live show-castings.
MS's core audience is gamers, generally males 18 to 34 though women make up a large portion as well- this audience must be expanded and that is why the programming is so varied. The audience is potentially huge. Over 85 million Xbox gaming consoles have been sold globally and 48 million of those are connected to Xbox Live, providing MS a significant baked-in user base.
To be made available on Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows 8 PC, and Windows 8 Phone, the shows will also offer unique interactive capabilities making each a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience. The new shows, starting this June, will feature the following:
'Halo' - a series based upon the huge Halo game franchise. This series is being produced and directed by Steven Spielberg.
'Every Street United' - an unscripted series of eight 30 minute episodes and a one-hour finale. It centers on the global search for soccer's most gifted and undiscovered street stars scouted for in eight countries.
'Bonnaroo' - the three day Tennessee music and art festival which will be live-cast. MS will be the exclusive broadcaster and interactive features will allow viewers to toggle between two live stages, choose camera angles, and Skype with band members.
'Humans' - a one-hour, eight episode drama about a parallel world where the latest must-have is a 'Synth', an advanced robotic servant. But purchasing a refurbished Synth will spell trouble.
The roster goes on: 'Signal to Noise', 'Atari:Game Over', 'Deadlands', 'Extraordinary Believers', 'Fearless', 'Gun Machine', 'JASH', a comedy variety show, and 'Winterworld' a sci-fi thriller.
What's The End Game?
For tech firms like MS, Netflix, Google, Amazon etc. and for traditional Hollywood media it's a win/win. Lots more production in an ever expanding arena with ever more content hungry viewers with a fear-of-missing-out mentality.
For cinemas, the trail is before you. Having now converted to d-cinema (and having done so in the right way) the potential for offering your customers a wide variety of content, exclusive of movies, is like never before. There is no reason why every cinema operator should not be contacting MS and inquiring how they can offer the Bannarro festival on their big screen with big sound via a hook-up of an Xbox to their d-cinema projector. Again, this is a win/win. MS would, I believe, look kindly to expanding its audience and include cinemas in that mix. The opportunity is there - cinemas just have to recognize it and act upon it. That is how cinemas will prosper in the future.