Live action series based on game franchises like "Gears of War," "State of Decay," "Age of Empires," "Fable" and "Forza Motorsport" in development
It’s showtime for Nancy Tellem.
After making several one-off announcements of original shows it wants to make for the Xbox Live platform, including a Steven Spielberg-produced series around hit videogame “Halo,” Microsoft’s Xbox Entertainment Studios has a full slate it will unveil to advertisers for the first time.
Tellem, the former CBS chief who became president of entertainment and digital media for Xbox in 2012, will promote six greenlit shows and at least 11 more in development, on Monday during the NewFronts, a gathering of online networks and digital programmers seeking advertising dollars from Madison Avenue.
The shows, which include live action series based on other hit game franchises exclusive to Xbox like “Gears of War,” “Age of Empires,” “Fable” and “Forza Motorsport,” as well as “State of Decay,” that will be presented include an array of documentaries, scripted dramas, animation, comedy and live events. All are designed to offer interactive ways to delve deeper into the programming, and will play on multiple screens that offer Xbox Live. They’re also meant to serve as premium programming that stand out from series available through apps from the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Machinima currently available on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One video game consoles and specifically target 18-34-year-old males.
For example, its first show to launch, “Every Street United,” will be available on Xbox Video for Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows 8 (on PC and Surface tablets) and Windows Phone 8 when it bows in June.
Microsoft sees the launch of original series as a way to turn its videogame consoles into more of a hub in the living room for all forms of entertainment, but rather than just offer apps from other streaming video providers, it too wants to be a major player with a platform that needs more exclusive content to sell consoles.
Series that Tellem’s team, which includes former WB network CEO Jordan Levin, have committed to include:
■ A live action “Halo” series executive produced by Spielberg, created in partnership with 343 Industries (behind the “Halo” game series, above) and Amblin Television. A separate “Halo” digital feature from 343 Industries and Scott Free Prods will be released later this year that Ridley Scott and Scott Free TV president David Zucker will produce. Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (“Battlestar Galactica,” “Pillars of the Earth,” “Heroes”) will direct.
■ The unscripted series “Every Street United” that will play out as eight, 30-minute episodes and a one-hour finale, featuring legendary soccer players Thierry Henry and Edgar Davids, focused on the global search for soccer’s most gifted and undiscovered street stars scouted across eight countries (United States, England, Argentina, Spain, Brazil, the Netherlands, Ghana and South Korea). Show concludes in July with a street game finale in Rio de Janeiro, which is hosting the World Cup. Jonathan Hock (“Streetball,” “30 for 30: The Best That Never Was”) is directing the series, while Mike Tollin and Mandalay Sports Media are executive producing.
■ A live stream of the Bonnaroo music and arts festival June 13-15, with Xbox featuring perofrmances from multiple stages.
■ “Signal to Noise,” a six film documentary series from Simon Chinn (“Searching for Sugar Man” and “Man on Wire”) and Jonathan Chinn (FX’s “30 Days” and PBS’s “American High”) that will expose little known stories of how modern technology has radically altered the way people interact with our world. The first installment, “Atari: Game Over” exposes how Atari sold millions of unsold cartridges of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” game in a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The episode is directed by Zak Penn (“X-Men: The Last Stand,” “The Incredible Hulk”).
■ “Humans,” a sci-fi drama co-produced with UK broadcaster Channel 4 and Kudos (behind the “The Hour,” “Utopia,” “Broadchurch”) that’s an English retelling of the popular Swedish series about humans living with robot servants. Show will be an hour-long, eight-episode series, which will share a premiere broadcast window on the Xbox platform and Channel 4 in 2015. Jane Featherstone (“Life on Mars,” “Broadchurch”) and Derek Wax (“The Hour,” “Sex Traffic”) are producing the series, written by Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley (“Spooks”). Production starts this summer.
Projects in development include:
■ Live action series based on other hit game franchises like “Gears of War,” “Age of Empires,” “Fable,” and “Forza Motorsport,” as well as “State of Decay.”
■ “Deadlands,” based on the successful pen-and-paper role-playing game created by Shane Lacy Hensley that’s filled with undead gunfighters, card-slinging sorcerers, mad scientists, secret societies, and fearsome abominations.
■ The comedy “Extraordinary Believers,” from Stoopid Buddy Stoodios (“Robot Chicken”), which mixes live action with stop motion animation and man-on-the-street interviews. Seth Green and Matt Senreich are executive producing with the show’s creators Eric Towner and John Harvatine IV.
■ “Fearless,” an unscripted series about Australian Navy bomb clearance diver and shark attack survivor Paul de Gelder, who goes on an adrenaline-fueled quest to aid individuals who risk their lives. Australia’s Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder is producing the series.
■ “Gun Machine,” a thriller about a detective tracking a serial killer who is tied to a mysterious collection of guns used in infamous New York murders. Brett Conrad (“The Killing,” “Sons of Anarchy,” Netflix’s upcoming “Marco Polo”) is writing the pilot, based on Warren Ellis’ bestselling novel. Ellis will executive produce.
■ An untitled half-hour variety show from JASH, a comedy collective founded by Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Tim and Eric and Reggie Watts. A different comedian will host each week, starting with Silverman. Daniel Kellison (“Late Night,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Crank Yankers”) will executive produce.
■ Live-action series “Winterworld,” a co-production with IDW Entertainment, based on Chuck Dixon and artist Jorge Zaffino’s graphic novel in which the world has been encased in ice and the surviving humans have formed tribes that war, enslave and trade with one another in an effort to survive. IDW’s Ted Adams and David Ozer will executive produce with Rick Jacobs and Dave Alpert from Circle of Confusion (“The Walking Dead”).