Microsoft And Yahoo Entering Original TV Show Arena To Take On Netflix And Amazon

It seems like everybody thinks they can make great TV shows these days. Following in the formidable footsteps of Netflix and (to a lesser extent) Amazon, both Microsoft and Yahoo are looking to get into the original programming business.

Yahoo’s effort in that direction, as reported by the Wall Street Journal and its anonymous sources, will take the form of 10-episode half-hour comedies as well as potentially the sort of shows that Netflix has been making, and they’ll be helmed and created by people with experience in the traditional TV industry.

No deals are in place yet, but developing original content is a logical next step for Yahoo as the company builds out a new online video service.

Yahoo video service

Microsoft’s plans are apparently further along, according to Bloomberg. The company is tying original content to its Xbox platform and in doing so would bring users that last important vector of living room entertainment.

Microsoft’s approach is completely different than others in the original TV content space; although it’s recruiting popular talent such as Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, and Seth Green (presumably as a show creator, not an actor), the company’s target audience is gamers--particularly, males 18-34 years old.

Further, much of Microsoft’s content will be interactive, at least to a certain degree. For example, in certain shows users could unlock extra scenes, play mini games within certain scenes, and more.

Microsoft Xbox Phil Spencer

If you’re wondering how exactly that would work from a technological standpoint, Microsoft is breaking new ground there, too; the company is bringing together filmmakers and software engineers to create new interactive capabilities that include social networking, in-show purchasing opportunities, and game-like reward systems. Another potentiality is developing a way to scan a user’s face and overlay them into, say, a crowd scene as an “extra”.

It’s a brave new world in TV Land, and competition from major Internet companies is challenging old paradigms in a powerful way. Netflix has done quite well with some of its original series, but the rest of the new TV makers on the block still have quite a bit of proving to do. It will be interesting to see what the likes of Yahoo and Microsoft can bring about--both in terms of actual content and subversion of old TV norms.