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First Mover: Nancy Tellem


New gig President, entertainment and digital media, Microsoft
Old gig President, CBS Entertainment Group

Tell me about the new gig.
After the number of years I’ve been in traditional media, this really allows me to explore the next iteration of television. We’re dealing with a console that has 70 million connected boxes globally. Xbox is really something in the living room that nobody else has. People assume that Xbox is really focused on gamers, when you have all the different social aspects of Xbox Live.

What’s different about producing video for consoles?
We’re setting a strategy overall when you’re looking at the videos, not just of producing for the console itself, but of partnering with others. We’d talked for many years about multiplatform development. You have the SmartGlass technology, which allows you to sync with cell phones and tablets for a second-screen opportunity.

I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot about second-screen lately. What do you want to do with it?
A perfect example is Game of Thrones, where they have cast information, maps, additional narrative that they couldn’t deal with or address in the time allotted for the narrative itself. It can go in so many different directions. From a sports standpoint, as my kids are watching a game, they’re doing fantasy football and tweeting. There are so many aspects to watching content.

Speaking of technology, why isn’t there more immediate return on all the investment that’s been made in 3-D gaming?
Right now it’s a little bit cumbersome with glasses, but as you get toward seeing 3-D without having to have special glasses, and with easier monitors, I don’t think it’s going away. I just think everyone jumped into it very quickly.

You were involved in the creation of The CW, right?
During my time at WB, we merged with UPN and created The CW. I was strategically involved with that. The way the audience was consuming content was changing—the importance of CW.com as a choice; the importance of the DVR and the audience seeing what they wanted to see when they wanted to see it; and then seeing how the 18-34 generation was interacting with content.

That brings us pretty neatly back to the Xbox. What are some of the hallmarks of that next generation?
When you look at the types of series that are being produced, we are really at an exciting time with the talent involved in television. I hear that a lot from the writers and producers—now they can have a direct relationship with the consumer. Particularly with the real-time response to the content and all the avenues to make it.

I know a lot of writers love the opportunity to explore a show’s mythos, rather than just having an A plot and a B plot.
Once you kind of embrace the power of it, it enhances their task in some respects. Feedback used to be a thing where you’d put a series up, look at the ratings and figure out when they tuned out and when they didn’t. But now everyone has a tweeted opinion and a response on Facebook. It’s very much like the evolution of the casual game.

Are you guys interested in other avenues for distribution? DVDs and so forth?
As far as the type of programming we’re trying to produce, whether you’re looking at series, reality, whatever, the ease in which you access the content is extraordinarily important. You can pull whatever you need from the cloud. It’s more about the audience and the consumers taking control over the form. Before, the network was telling you what to watch and when to watch it. This shift really changes the way you pursue content creators. 

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