Follow us:

Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

October 31, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Xbox Entertainment Studios officially closes

The 2-year-old Xbox Entertainment Studios, which had focused on producing original TV content for the Xbox platform, has now officially closed, with its top executives leaving.

Nancy Tellem (Photo from Microsoft)

Nancy Tellem (Photo from Microsoft)

Microsoft had said in July, when it first announced that 18,000 jobs would be eliminated over the next year, that Xbox Entertainment Studios would be shutting down. That announcement came only three months after the studio had outlined its plans for a slate of original TV programs for the Xbox Live service.

Xbox Entertainment Studios executives Nancy Tellem and Jordan Levin, and some from the studios team, had remained to focus on a smaller group of programs already in production, including a “Halo” TV series and a documentary series.

Tellem, Levin and a few remaining staffers were part of Wednesday’s round of layoffs, according to Variety.

Tellem, a former president of CBS Network Television Entertainment Group, and Levin, a former CEO of The WB network, “had been trying to salvage some of the projects that they’d been developing under the Xbox Studios banner by bringing them to a new studio,” the Variety article goes on to say. “But the pair had initially expected to stay through year’s end at Microsoft, which would have given them more time to sort through the thicket of rights issues involved in relocating the scripted and nonscripted projects. Now, rights in some cases are reverting back to the creators.”

A Microsoft spokeswoman said Thursday:

Nancy and Jordan were key members and visionaries for the XES team, and we thank them for their leadership and many contributions.

Led by 343 Industries, ‘Halo: Nightfall’ will be released this fall as part of ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ and the Halo television series remains on track. Neither project is impacted. Xbox remains committed to airing two of the documentaries produced by Lightbox – ‘Atari: Game Over’ and ‘The Thread’ (working title). Stay tuned for release dates and tune-in information for both films.”

Zak Penn, director of “Atari: Game Over” (working title), and Andrew Reinhard, archaeologist,  hold up Atari 2600 “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” game cartridges excavated in an Alamogordo, New Mexico landfill on April 26. (Photo from Microsoft)

Zak Penn, director of “Atari: Game Over”, and Andrew Reinhard, archaeologist,
hold up Atari 2600 “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” game cartridges excavated in an Alamogordo, New Mexico landfill on April 26. “Atari: Game Over” was one of the documentaries developed under Xbox Entertainment Studios. (Photo from Microsoft)

Microsoft has tried several times before to launch original TV show-type series.

Those included several short-lived online shows for the company’s MSN service in the 1990s; several Web series under the MSN Originals name; and, in 2012, the “Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn” live-action digital series.

When the company tried again, starting with former CEO Steve Ballmer’s hiring of Tellem some two years ago, some industry analysts thought there was opportunity for Microsoft since the television industry was in the midst of reinventing itself with new entrants such as Netflix and Amazon.com. But they also questioned how committed Microsoft was to the effort.

And after CEO Satya Nadella declared in July that he would be focusing on remaking Microsoft into what he calls a “productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world,” many wondered where producing original TV programming fit into that focus.

Comments | More in Microsoft | Topics: xbox, xbox entertainment studios, xbox live

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►