Microsoft Launches Original Programming for Xbox

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Microsoft Launching Original Programming for Xbox
Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images for Microsoft
By Harriet Taylor

Microsoft's (MSFT) Xbox Entertainment Studios took the wrap off its plans for original programming Monday, announcing a lineup that stretches from soccer to Sarah Silverman.

With everyone from Amazon (AMZN) to Netflix (NFLX) launching new premium content, Microsoft is hoping Xbox's distribution network, along with its interactive features, will give it a competitive advantage.

"There are a lot of gamers who are used to actually interacting with the content itself, and what we're doing is creating high quality, premium content, and then hoping that we also can take advantage of the tech that we already have, with the over 200 engineers in Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Redmond, to create interactive features that offer a new TV experiences," said Nancy Tellem, Microsoft's president of entertainment and a former president of CBS Television Studios.

Microsoft has 12 originals in the works and is leaning into its base -- millennial males -- who spend more hours streaming content than they do gaming on the Xbox. In June, the studio kicks off with "Every Street United," a street soccer documentary series featuring international soccer star Thierry Henry and launching ahead of the World Cup in Brazil. Tellem hopes Xbox's massive distribution network -- Xbox has 48 million subscribers worldwide -- makes the world's biggest sporting event a likely score for the software giant's first foray into premium content.

"The most important thing is really creating this social community. So obviously with the use of Skype, you can actually, in your own living room, connect with people on the other side of the United States or the world for that matter, and be able to speak and exchange actually real-time conversations while you're watching the show," Tellem said.

Also in the works, a much talked about "Halo" live action TV series based on Microsoft's popular gaming franchise, produced by Steven Spielberg in partnership with 343 Industries and Amblin Television. The show goes into production in November. It's one example of how the company plans to leverage its substantial intellectual property developed for Xbox games into video.

In addition to originals, Microsoft is diving into live streaming, starting with the Bonnaroo music festival in June.

"It essentially creates a virtual festival in your own living room," Tellem said. She noted that fans will be able to flip between different stages and camera angles, go backstage and follow individual artists, all while Skyping with friends to watch remotely together. "The new audience likes the complexity -- and the exciting thing is we have a platform that can allow us to tell more complex stories and the audience can dig in as much as they want to."

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%It's content like this that may help Microsoft draw in a wider audience beyond gamers.

But Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter says Microsoft has a unique challenge in the media market. "I don't think Microsoft is in a rivalry with Hulu or Netflix. It's more that Microsoft has a service that has a completely different value proposition -- it wants Xbox Live members to feel good about subscribing," he said. "They're not going to win Netflix customers and have them switch over to Xbox Live. But if 3 percent to 5 percent of Microsoft subscribers like any given show they produce, that makes the service stickier; and for some people that's a great deal."

It remains to be seen whether it will be enough to launch a successful studio in the face of such formidable competition.

"I will give them credit -- they hired Nancy Tellem," Pachter said, noting that Tellem is "a pretty capable TV executive" whose hire is reminiscent of when Netflix hired Ted Sarandos. "They have their respective professionals, and I expect they're going to do the right thing."

Other shows on Microsoft's roster include a six-film documentary series called "Signal to Noise/Atari Game Over"; a drama co-produced with U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 called "Humans"; a detective thriller based on New York Times bestseller "Gun Machine," by Warren Ellis; a show hosted by comedian Sarah Silverman; a stop-motion show executive produced by Seth Green called "Extraordinary Believers"; and "Winterworld," a live-action series based on a graphic novel.


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Microsoft Launches Original Programming for Xbox

A big, bold "SALE" sign helps get people in the store, where they are likely to buy non-sale items.

Once you enter, there's the shopping cart. This invention was designed in the late 1930s to help customers make larger purchases more easily.

 

In supermarkets, high margin departments like floral and fresh baked goods are placed near the front door, so you encounter them when your cart is empty and your spirits are high.    
Flowers and baked goods also sit near the front of stores because their appealing smell activates your salivary glands, making you more likely to purchase on impulse.

Supermarkets like to hide dairy products and other essentials on the back wall, forcing you to go through the whole store to reach them.

 

    

Once customers start walking through a store's maze of aisles, they are conditioned to walk up and down each one without deviating.

Most stores move customers from right to left. This, combined with the fact that America drives on the right, makes people more likely to purchase items on the right-hand side of the aisle.

Anything a store really wants customers to buy is placed at eye level. Particularly favored items are highlighted at the ends of aisles.
 

There's also kid eye level. This is where stores place toys, games, sugary cereal, candy, and other items a kid will see and beg his parents to buy.
Sample stations and other displays slow you down while exposing you to new products.
Stores also want items to be in easy reach. Research shows that touching items increases the chance of a purchase.

Color affects shoppers, too. People are drawn into stores by warm hues like reds, oranges, and yellows, but once inside cool colors like blues and greens encourage them to spend more.

Hear that music? Studies show that slow music makes people shop leisurely and spend more. Loud music hurries them through the store and doesn't affect sales. Classical music encourages more expensive purchases.
Store size matters, too. In crowded places, people spend less time shopping, make fewer purchases (planned and impulsive), and feel less comfortable
.
Stores not only entice you with sales, they also use limited-time offers to increase your sense of urgency in making a purchase.
The most profitable area of the store is the checkout line. Stores bank on customers succumbing to the candy and magazine racks while they wait.
Finally, there is the ubiquitous "valued shopper" card. This card gives you an occasional deal in exchange for your customer loyalty and valuable personal data.
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