Tellem Lines Up First Original Xbox Series, Including ‘Halo’

Microsoft to spend considerable money around new series, on the level of HBO's 'Game of Thrones'

Nancy Tellem

With a show based on its popular videogame franchise “Halo” in the works from Steven Spielberg, Nancy Tellem is starting to put her first slate of shows together that she wants to launch on Microsoft’s Xbox Live platform.

While no other titles have yet been revealed, the former CBS exec wants to get the first projects on TV screens by the end of the year, Tellem told Variety on Tuesday shortly after Microsoft unveiled its new Xbox One console set to hit retail shelves later this fall.

The “Halo” series is the first to be announced since Tellem joined Xbox Entertainment Studios last summer.

SEE ALSO: Tellem Named Microsoft Entertainment Chief

Tellem is considering a number of projects, from high-profile series like “Halo” to alternative fare like reality and gameshows, sports and other live events. Budgets and the length of episodes, as well as how many episodes would be produced, are also being considered and vary depending on the series. One-hour shows could be a possibility.

Microsoft is clearly giving Tellem a budget to play with: she described the production quality of the upcoming “Halo” series on the level of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” while other shows would resemble any high-end series on a cable or broadcast network.

But while the “Halo” series certainly set off a flurry of buzz, Tellem isn’t in a hurry to get shows on Xbox Live.

“For us, it’s about taking the necessary time to produce the right shows,” she said.

Xbox is also considering other distribution methods once the shows have aired on Xbox Live — like taking the series to other more traditional network or how to release them on other homevideo platforms.

It’s a similar situation that Netflix and Amazon are now dealing with as they produce more original series that start online first.

And that’s what Tellem has had to get used to, since becoming Microsoft’s chief entertainment exec.

“I wake up and think no deal or project is the same,” she said. “We’re not constrained by any precedent or prior circumstances.”

The new Xbox One videogame console, which replaces the eight-year-old Xbox 360, is key for the kind of programming Tellem is developing, given that it will offer up a slew of new features that make video interactive, especially on mobile devices, through Xbox Live and second-screen app technology SmartGlass.

Tellem sees the interactive features available on Xbox Live — whether it’s on the current Xbox 360 or new Xbox One — as a game-changer of the relationship between content creators and the viewers of their shows by offering them more details on characters or stats during sports.

“It shifts the power to the viewer and consumer,” Tellem said. “You can create a more enriching experience and have the viewer become more engaged. It encourages you to watch the show more than once” or interactive with a live event more.

Since joining Xbox, Tellem has been busy meeting with agencies and taking pitches from content creators. But Tellem has also had to educate Hollywood on what exactly the Xbox and Xbox Live can do.

SEE ALSO: Microsoft Unveils New Console: Xbox One

“Many view it only as a gaming console,” she said. “But it’s an extremely different experience.” The perception is quickly changing, however. “There’s been tremendous interest to be on the (Xbox Live) platform. We’re spending long hours hearing pitches. Frankly, it’s been overwhelming.”