Created for gaming, the Xbox One is the latest challenger to old-fashioned telly, but, said Microsoft entertainment and digital media president Nancy Tellem, it is not the final nail in the TV industry’s coffin.
“It’s an augmentation,” she argued. “Right now, [TV] is in a renaissance period -- what Xbox offers is a different TV experience.”
Since joining Microsoft from CBS a year ago, Tellem has been spearheading the software giant’s move into TV, delivered via its Xbox One gaming console.
Interactivity among its current 76 million connected console users would be the key to Xbox One’s success. “It isn’t just delivering content. It really offers an immersive experience,” she said.
The session was chaired by Matt Frei from Channel 4 News, who said that he enjoyed being a “passive” consumer of TV. To laughter from the audience, Tellem replied: “Xbox addresses the next generation.”
Tellem identified sport, live events and scripted entertainment as genres particularly suited to Xbox One. Mentioning Game of Thrones as the type of complex drama suited to the console, she claimed: “You can give a much richer understanding of the characters and their history.”
Tellem is in discussions with studios and talent about commissions, which she hopes to announce in a few weeks. Earlier this year, Microsoft revealed that a TV show based on the Halo game, with the involvement of Steven Spielberg, was in the pipeline.
She also countered a suggestion from the audience that Xbox One’s programming would be geared at 18-year-old boys. Tellum said that her ambition was to reach out beyond traditional gamers, adding that 40% of its platform users were female, with most of the audience between 18 and 40.
“My mission it to transform it into an entertainment service,” she said, which would include music, film and sport as well as games. “It’s a simple offering that can access all your entertainment needs.”
Before joining Microsoft, Tellem had worked at the US network CBS for a decade and a half, latterly as senior adviser to chief executive Leslie Moonves.
The session was produced by David Mapstone.
Report by Matthew Bell. Photo by Paul Hampartsoumian.