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.
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, 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.”
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.