Microsoft ends flirtation with Hollywood

Software giant kicked off one of the largest layoffs in tech history.

Reuters July 18, 2014

LOS ANGELES: Microsoft Corp intends to wind down Xbox Entertainment Studios, a source familiar with its plans said, becoming the first major tech company to give up on making original shows in a battle for the living room couch.

The production outfit’s impending closure is part of a sweeping restructuring announced by the software giant, which includes the largest single round of layoffs in the company’s near-four-decade history.

The studio, set up in 2012 under then-Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, said in April it had committed to several projects including Humans, a drama co-produced with UK broadcaster Channel 4, and Halo, a digital feature based on the best-selling Xbox game.

Hollywood director and producer Ridley Scott is making Halo and it will survive the cutback, according to a source familiar with Microsoft’s plans, who was not authorized to speak on the record.

Microsoft was among several tech companies that raced to add original TV-like content after the release in February 2013 of Netflix Inc’s House of Cards, a political thriller that built buzz for streaming video and earned the first Emmy nominations for a show delivered exclusively online.

Many are soldiering on, vying to dominate living rooms as video-streaming becomes an increasingly popular option for household entertainment. Inc is preparing to release a second season of the John Goodman comedy Alpha House and two other original series this year for Prime Instant Video.

Hulu is adding to its original productions, which already include supernatural comedy Deadbeat and upcoming reality satire The Hot Wives of Orlando.

Yahoo and Sony Corp also remain in the game and pitched advertisers in the spring on longer-form shows. Yahoo recently picked up canceled NBC comedy Community for another season. And Sony features Jerry Seinfeld in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee on its Crackle digital network. 

Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2014.

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