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Microsoft Eyes Entry Into Scripted Television

By | Monday November 28, 2011 @ 5:41pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

It looks like software giant Microsoft is looking to get into the scripted TV business. I hear that the company has hired a headhunter to search for an experienced executive to serve as a head of scripted. Microsoft has dabbled into original series before. Several years ago, the company’s music and entertainment service Zune partnered with MEAN Magazine to produce Cinemash, a digital comedy series that took on classic scenes from popular movies. Microsoft recently has been exploring the scripted TV territory for its video-game console XBox. After a decade of growing pains, original content has finally become the new frontier for big Internet companies, though none has gone as far as to produce high-end series for online distribution, and Prospect Park’s failed attempt to do it with canceled soaps One Life To Live and All My Children proves just how economically challenging that is. Netflix is betting heavily on scripted series through straight acquisitions of drama House Of Cards and comedies Orange Is The New Black and Arrested Development. And Google’s YouTube recently announced the launch of as many as 100 channels with premium original content.

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Spike Puts Scripted Development On Hold

Nellie Andreeva

The writing had been on the wall for a while, and Spike executives began quietly telling agents over the past couple of weeks that the network is getting out of the scripted business, at least for the time being. One of the network’s 2 scripted executives, Laurence Sullivan, has already departed to join Conan O’Brien’s production company Conaco. The last time Spike announced a scripted development slate was last October. Of the 7 projects on it, one, the Walt Becket-produced and Andy Tenant-directed Thunderballs, went to pilot but hasn’t been picked up to series. Spike also passed on its 2 pilots ordered last year, Back Nine and Playing With Guns. (Playing With Guns was later redeveloped by Comedy Central). Spike’s only remaining scripted executive, Dustin Davis, will continue to oversee existing development, including a script the network bought last month about an NYPD bomb squad, as well as Spike’s sole scripted series, Blue Mountain State. Spike’s recently picked up 4 new series, all in the reality genre, where the channel has had ratings success with such hits as Auction Hunters and Repo Games.

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