Microsoft has teamed up with Channel 4 to produce an original TV show which will premiere on the TV channel and console simultaneously.
The Netflix effect
The move sees Microsoft’s computer console compete with Netflix in an attempt to drive up subscribers for its Xbox Live service. Indeed, Netflix’s entry into production of original content sparked a wave of new customers thanks to on-demand exclusives such as House of Cards and Arrested Development.
Now, Xbox will be hoping to achieve the same with Humans, a sci-fi drama based on a Swedish series called Real Humans. The hour-long, eight-episode series will be produced by UK production company Kudos, who previously brought us Utopia and Broadchurch, and will broadcast on both the Xbox platform in North America and Channel 4 in the UK in 2015.
The show is written by Brits Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley and is set in a parallel present where the latest must-have gadget is a ‘Synth’, a robotic servant. When one family purchases a refurbished Synth, their shared life with a machine has “far-reaching and chilling consequences”. Casting for the show will begin next month and production will start in summer 2014.
From console to entertainment hub
“Humans not only questions personal relationships, we loved how this sci-fi show toys with reality and our connection to technology,” said Xbox Entertainment Studios President Nancy Tellem. “This deal with Channel 4 and Kudos underscores Xbox Entertainment Studios’ commitment to programming premium TV series with global partners and creating engaging interactive experiences.”
Indeed, Microsoft has previously announced similarly ambitious programmes targeted at Millenials in an attempt to turn the Xbox from a games platform to a home entertainment hub. Previously announced projects include a Halo TV series exec-produced by Steven Spielberg.
“In Humans, Sam and Jon have not only crafted an ingenious and imaginative thriller, they’re also asking big, thought-provoking questions about how we live,” said Piers Wenger, Head of Drama for Channel 4. “I’m thrilled to be working once again with the team at Kudos and to be partnering with Xbox Entertainment Studios to bring this extraordinary and epic series to the screen.”
Microsoft vs Netflix – or Microsoft vs Sony?
Microsoft is not the only one eyeing up on-demand original content, though. Today’s Xbox accouncement follows further details from The Wall Street Journal about Sony’s planned video project: Powers, an adaptation of a graphic novel by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming.
The graphic novel combined noir, fantasy and police procedural elements and follows two detectives’ investigation into crimes committed by people with super powers.
“It overlays extremely well with the demographics of the PlayStation,” Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment, told the Journal, adding that show woul drival HBO and Showtime shows in terms of budget.
Powers has been in development for some time, according to Deadline, even making it to a pilot for TV channel FX. There is no word on a release date or production schedule – although now Microsoft is stepping up their own content plans, you can bet it won’t be long until we hear more.