Nancy Tellem Lines Up Top Role at Interactive Storytelling Startup

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

Issue 1 BIZ Exec Suite Nancy Tellem - H 2013

The former head of Xbox Entertainment Studios is taking the reins of Interlude as executive chairman and chief media officer.

Nancy Tellem has lined up her next gig. 

Six months after she was laid off from Microsoft as part of the closure of content division Xbox Entertainment Studios, Tellem is expanding her technology chops with a top job at interactive storytelling startup Interlude. The veteran TV executive has joined the company as executive chairman and chief media officer. She will be based in Los Angeles, where she will lead the executive team, set strategy and build out a creative team.

"We are reimagining video for a generation that wants to do more than just watch passively, which is why we are focused on amazing experiences that are both playful and thought provoking. Nancy shares our passion and has the vision to build off our current success," said Interlude founder and CEO Yoni Bloch. "We are very fortunate to have someone of her stature to guide our company’s growth." 

Interlude was founded in 2010 to create immersive, interactive videos. Through a partnership with Warner Music Group, the venture-backed company has made an entry in the music world with music videos, including interactive videos for Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" and Wiz Khalifa's "Staying Out All Night" and a commemoration video for Led Zeppelin album Physical Graffiti

In many ways, the new role represents a continuation of the interactive storytelling work that Tellem explored as the head of Xbox Entertainment Studios, which former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer hired her to build in 2012. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Tellem explains that she sees Interlude as an opportunity to continue to explore "the next iteration of what TV could be."

"Interlude is for me the next step," she says. "I really believe that we're at this point in our business that we have to create a different video experience for the millennial audience." 

Tellem, who previously ran CBS Network Television Entertainment Group as president, has been advising Interlude since its inception and says that although the company entered the entertainment space with music videos, that's just the beginning. The company has also done work on interactive children's content, educational videos and sports news. "What's unique about Interlude is that while it started as a technology company, it is also a very creative company," she adds. "They have an amazing vision about how technology can impact video content." 

Tellem ran Xbox Entertainment Studios as president for just over two years, building out a Santa Monica-based team of development executives who eventually crafted a broad development slate that ranged from a Steven Spielberg-produced Halo adaptation to a documentary series to a soccer reality series tied to the World Cup. The studio had debuted just two of its projects when new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced plans for a company restructuring that would result in the layoff of 18,000 employees and the shuttering of the studio. In the months that followed Tellem and right-hand Jordan Levin sold sci-fi series to AMC and shopped around for a new home for the studio, but ultimately they were let go in October. 

"It was a wonderful experience but it was somewhat bittersweet," Tellem recalls. "Most of our projects have found homes elsewhere. You get very attached to the projects you develop and it was a bit frustrating to not be able to execute." 

Watch a sample of Interlude's interactive videos: