Microsoft Entertainment Boss Nancy Tellem: Xbox Augments TV Experience, Nears More Content Deals

Issue 1 BIZ Exec Suite Nancy Tellem - H 2013
Christopher Patey

Issue 1 BIZ Exec Suite Nancy Tellem - H 2013

She tells a U.K. TV-industry gathering that original content on the Xbox video game console isn't killing off traditional TV, but offers "a much more robust and interactive experience."

CAMBRIDGE, England – Nancy Tellem, the former CBS Entertainment boss who is now Microsoft’s president of entertainment and digital media, said here Thursday that Xbox original TV content is an augmentation of traditional TV, not a nail in its coffin.

"We're offering a different TV experience -- a much more robust and interactive experience," she said.

She also told the Royal Television Society convention that she hopes to have more content announcements in the next few weeks based on deals with studios and talents currently being finalized. She declined to provide details.

She later described sports content and live events as a natural fit for the interactivity the Xbox provides.

Tellem also told attendees that online video providers are already offering content when and where consumers want. Now, Xbox is also offering people a choice for how to watch it , whether in immersive, interactive form for those who want to lean in, or like a couch potato for those who want to lean back.

The new Xbox One is set to hit stores in November and will feature items such as heart rate monitors, in addition to the latest gesture- and voice-driven controls.

Tellem highlighted the content ideas her development team of 200 has come up with so far. One is a Halo series that Steven Spielberg is executive producing. "He has always been a huge gamer and loved Halo," so this was something he jumped at, she explained.
In her session, entitled "Xbox One: From Gaming to Content," Tellem said that Microsoft now has more than 76 million connected consoles and expects to get to up to 100 million over the next few years.

When she mentioned the immersiveness and interactivity of Xbox, she was asked if viewers didn't simply want to be couch potatoes when watching programs. "You're the perfect CBS audience," Tellem replied with a smile. "Xbox really addresses the next generation of audiences."

Her boys watch football games while texting friends, using their tablets to pull up their fantasy football lineup, and playing Madden NFL video games at half-way. "This next generation is leaning into the content," she explained. She also shared that "I have a tablet and smartphone next to me while I watch TV."

Tellem said that complex stories and characters can benefit from more interactivity that helps viewers understand a story. She mentioned such shows as Game of Thrones as examples. And "talent is able to tell much more complex stories" on the Xbox, she said.

Asked about advertisers' interest in the Xbox programming, Tellem said they are "incredibly excited," but are still evaluating how to best move to gaming. The benefits are "really interactive ads" that give marketers "an immediate response," she explained.

Twitter: @georgszalai