The Paley Center for Media‘s International Council Summit will be held November 21st & 22nd in New York. The theme of this year’s event is “The Data Overthrow.” It will explore and debate new business, advertising, and distribution …
David Bloom is a contributor to Deadline.
Microsoft’s announcement this morning that Steve Ballmer, the oldest of the old guard at what was once the biggest of the big tech companies, is leaving as CEO should be a major deal in Hollywood as well as Silicon Valley. After all, Ballmer and the tech giant he’s helped run for more than three decades have spent billions of dollars on countless entertainment-related initiatives trying to take their tech success to Tinseltown, including the latest big hire of former CBS network chief Nancy Tellem as president of Microsoft’s entertainment and digital media division. But will Hollywood notice Ballmer’s departure? Not really. He doesn’t even do the big CES keynote address anymore. And Hollywood’s likely indifference says a lot about Ballmer, Microsoft and the challenges the entire tech industry continues to have in decrypting Hollywood (and to be fair, vice versa).
At the May unveiling of the Xbox One, Tellem got on stage to say her unit is producing video programming for the console across every genre. She intimated that the studio’s programming would move far beyond traditional television, to take full advantage of the connectivity, motion-detection, emotion-detection and other interactive capabilities of the Xbox One. Less clear is whether that interactive programming will find an audience, especially given Xbox One’s high price, poor E3 showing and competition from a new Sony device and lots of far cheaper and more mobile alternatives. Audience sizes, especially in the first couple of years of the new console, will almost certainly be uncomfortably small for yet another expensive entertainment venture.
To head off some of that, as Deadline’s Nikki Finke and David Lieberman wrote, Ballmer recently joined Tellem on a series of meetings with Hollywood big-shots. The June trip was designed to both test support for their programming initiatives and build more interest among talent, dealmakers and producers. What hasn’t surfaced is whether those conversations have turned into anything substantive.
EXCLUSIVE 10 AM… UPDATEd 12:30 PM : Deadline has learned the meetings were an intimate preview of the new Xbox One capabilities before next week’s E3 confab where secretive Microsoft will unveil details of the device’s technology. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was escorted by his entertainment studios president Nancy Tellem for the visit late last week to lobby her closest Hollywood pals: her former boss CBS chief Les Moonves, Sony TV boss Steve Mosko, and WME co-CEOS Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell. It’s all part of Ballmer’s effort to drum up exclusive content after Microsoft intends to launch 40+ new voice-controlled customized TV and entertainment apps on Xbox One. But it was also more, one insider tells Deadline, “to reiterate Microsoft’s commitment to transitioning its business to devices and services and to explaining that Hollywood entertainment is a big part of that. Microsoft in the past has just dipped a toe but now has a real commitment.” Tellem wanted to give Ballmer 3 different perspective: the broadcaster, the independent producer, and the agent. Deadline has learned that Ballmer touted “what we could do with” the Xbox One in sports, music, reality and scripted programming, promising execs that they’d see more sophisticated technology and that his company “doesn’t want to be a cable channel”. He also met Tellem’s Santa Monica team for the first time and outlined his vision for a new Xbox One world. Ballmer’s trip to Hollywood will only anger more hard-core gamers who already were miffed by Microsoft’s focus on entertainment when it unveiled the product on May 21. (Xbox One will be on store shelves later this year). The hard-core gamers fear Microsoft sees its new Xbox One more as a souped-up Internet-connected, voice- and motion-controlled cable box than a next-gen gaming console.
David Bloom is a Deadline contributor
Microsoft finally unveiled the Xbox One, its next-generation successor to the Xbox 360 game console, with an impressive demonstration of a voice- and gesture-controlled device focused more on integrating and controlling all kinds of entertainment and social capabilities far beyond just playing videogames. The #XboxReveal event at Microsoft’s Seattle-area campus included the announcement by Xbox Entertainment Studios President Nancy Tellem that Steven Spielberg will create a new live-action TV show based on the “Halo” game franchise. In a video, Spielberg, a longtime game fan who also oversaw the launch of the DreamWorks Interactive game studio in the 1990s, briefly said “the Halo universe is an amazing opportunity to be at an intersection where technology and myth-making converge.”
Nancy Tellem has always been a pioneer, first as a woman in the traditional TV entertainment biz and then as #2 to Les Moonves at CBS Inc. When she transitioned to a consulting role in January 2010, Tellem indulged her passion for the digital world full-time. Meetings with Microsoft to discuss CBS/CW evolved until June 2012 when, after three months of negotiations, Microsoft announced her appointment as Entertainment & Digital Media president. Now she’s expanding her turf while Microsoft expands its entertainment footprint. At the ’D: Dive Into Media’ industry event late Monday, she spilled about her vision for entertainment on Xbox and about her new Los Angeles-based Xbox Entertainment Studios. But Microsoft and innovation do not go hand in hand: it’s been a digital slowpoke from the beginning and now can’t even make a decent computer operating system. Not only is Windows 8 a bomb, but its brand new Surface tablet is a bust. Which leads us to successful Xbox.
Tellem said that, during 2013, Microsoft is planning to launch more than 40 new voice-controlled customized TV and entertainment apps on Xbox. “We want to partner with the Industry to bring entertainment into a new era,” she told the panel. “It’s an era when interactive entertainment becomes the greatest form of all entertainment – and we couldn’t be more excited to play a part in it.”
Tellem will oversee the launch of a newly created production studio in Los Angeles that will develop interactive and linear content for Xbox and other devices. In addition to running the production studio, she will help spearhead the company’s efforts to turn Xbox into a leading entertainment platform. She will report to Phil Spencer, corporate VP, Microsoft Studios. “The Xbox is already a consumer favorite, and we now have a tremendous opportunity to transform it into the center of all things entertainment — from games, music and fitness to news, sports, live events, television series and movies — so consumers have one destination for all their entertainment needs,” Tellem said. “I look forward to building a studio team that embraces the challenges of creating true interactive content that the Xbox platform supports and to work with talent to create content that will change the way entertainment content is experienced and delivered.”
COMCAST-NBCU: Ted Harbert And Bob Greenblatt To Run NBC, Pat Fili-Krushel Also Coming, Fired Jeff Zucker Weeping
2ND UPDATE: Comcast’s new NBC Universal boss Steve Burke is supposed to finalize his new organizational structure and announce it today. We’d told you previously that Ted Harbert, president and CEO of the Comcast Entertainment Group, might be getting a big new job: it’s alongside former Showtime entertainment president Bob Greenblatt, and the two men will run NBC as equals reporting to Burke. Harbert will oversee stations, affiliates, and sales in NYC while Greenblatt will run programming and possibly marketing as well in LA. These are just two of the big changes that couldn’t wait for FCC regulatory approval, not if NBC wanted to have a development season. As it is Greenblatt and Harbert may not physically take the reins at NBC until mid-January, sources tell us, which is late for this pilot season. ”It’s going to be a long, steep, uphill climb in a tough world,” one insider described to us. “At least those GE boobs will be out of the way.” Meanwhile, sources tell us that fired NBC Universal boss Jeff Zucker has been holding mini town hall meetings with company employees and in two different gatherings started crying and had to stop to re-compose himself. Yesterday was the latest breakdown. Last week, he actually closed his office door and cried.
The NBC operations job was previously discussed with chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group Tony Vinciquerra and CBS Corp’s Nancy Tellem who we’re told “agonized over the decision and went back and forth and wound up somewhere inbetween” after talking to Burke and Greenblatt about it. Sources tell us that Tellem wanted Greenblatt to report to her, but Burke made it clear he had made a commitment that Greenblatt would have unfettered access to him. So Tellem kept pondering until Burke moved on without her in the past 10 days.
Also in the mix will be Pat Fili-Krushel, the former president of the ABC television network and most recently EVP of Administration of Time Warner Inc. She’ll be taking over NBCU’s HR, legal, and other administrative areas. In her role with Time Warner, she worked closely with the other members of Time Warner’s senior management team and its operating divisions on a variety of organizational, developmental and diversity issues. Her responsibilities included oversight of philanthropy, corporate social responsibility, corporate human resources, worldwide recruitment, employee development and growth, compensation and benefits, and security. Burke knew Fili-Krushel from his days at Disney/ABC.
Comcast Programming group president Jeff Shell will be based in London in an international post. NBC cable’s Bonnie Hammer will oversee USA, Syfy, and E!, while Lauren Zalaznick will run Bravo, Oxygen, and Style. We also hear that G4 will mostly likely go to Hammer, and Telemundo to Zalaznick. Sources tell us that today’s announcement won’t mention Angela Bromsted who may or may not survive all these changes, depending on the source, or that eventually Greenblatt may possibly bring in outsiders including Jennifer Nicholson Salke and Danielle Gelber.
8TH UPDATE: Comcast is clearing the way for its pending announcement of the new NBC Universal top executive structure. Jeff Gaspin, who had felt more and more as the odd man out in Comcast’s plans for the post-merger NBCU, just sent out a note to NBC Universal employees announcing that he will depart the company following its merger with Comcast after he and new NBCU CEO Steve Burke “could not agree on an appropriate role” for him in the new company. Gaspin had 4 years left on his contract, which was breached by the merger and Burke replacing Jeff Zucker. Gaspin was furious when a report last week claimed he was gone because it wasn’t true: in fact the two men hadn’t made that decision yet even though everyone guessed that’d be the ultimate conclusion because it’s known that Burke wants to decrease the media company’s layers of management. Gaspin has spent a combined 19 years at NBCU, most recently as chairman of NBC Universal TV Entertainment. “I want to thank Jeff for his many significant contributions to NBCU and for his professionalism throughout the integration process,” Burke said in a statement. After sending the memo, Gaspin gathered his senior executive team for an emotional meeting.
EXCLUSIVE… 6TH & 7TH UPDATE: Jeff Gaspin is flying on an NBC Universal corporate jet from NYC back to LA right now and is telling fellow passengers that a report he is leaving the company is “not accurate”. As we’ve been saying all along, there are a lot of moving parts to this NBCU organizational restructure, and a lot hasn’t been pinned down yet. Gaspin, who is NBCU Television Group President/COO, falls into that category. We’ve learned that he hasn’t had a “definitive conversation” with Comcast about his future yet. And the fact is that, as of today, his future has not been decided. “It may turn out to be true that he leaves. And he’s preparing for it. But it’s not true right now,” an insider just told us.
EXCLUSIVE… 5TH UPDATE: We’ve confirmed that onetime CBS bigwig and now consultant Nancy Tellem has indeed been in formal talks with Comcast brass about taking a top job at NBC alongside Robert Greenblatt. The idea was that he would be in charge of creative, and she would fill a parallel NYC-based network president-type job. Both would report to new NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke. As we reported Comcast hopes to announce the new NBC Universal organizational structure — one which now may or may not include Jeff Gaspin who got on a plane Monday for NYC Monday to meet with Comcast brass. About Tellem, “Comcast is talking to her. Nothing has been decided yet though because there are still ongoing issues. But people are trying to work through those issues,” one insider told us. ”She wants to do it. She just has to make sure the job is right.” Tellem was among half a dozen top-level broadcast executives (including Fox Network Group Chairman/CEO Tony Vinciquerra) approached by Burke some months ago after the Comcast/NBC deal was announced. Tellem was most recently boss of the bulk of CBS Inc’s entertainment operations until she stepped down in December 2009 to become Senior Advisor To The CEO.