Like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, Microsoft is jumping on the original-content bandwagon with its own Xbox Originals service.
The company today announced a lineup of shows that will start premiering on the new service for the Xbox 360, Xbox One and "other Microsoft devices" like Windows 8 PCs and Surface tablets this June. Each show "will offer interactive capabilities, as well as unique interactive features customized on a per-show basis, making it a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience you won't find anywhere else," said the company.
Viewers logging on for the Xbox Live stream of the Bonnaroo music and arts festival from June 13 through June 15 can experience some of those interactive features. Plans call for a Bonnaroo app that allows users to explore the lineup, view multiple stages and contribute to social media conversations.
Also premiering in June is Every Street United. As this year's World Cup descends on Rio de Janeiro, the eight-episode unscripted series will follow soccer players Thierry Henry and Edgar Davids as they search for "undiscovered street stars" in eight countries.
Still awaiting a firm premier date is the highly anticipated "Halo" television series. Steven Spielberg will serve as executive producer for the series based on the futuristic game series that is credited for much of the Xbox's success. Microsoft also teased a "Halo" digital feature from executive producers Ridley Scott and David Zucker.
Microsoft is also preparing Signal to Noise, a documentary series that will explore the "little-known stories of how modern technology has radically altered the way we interact with our world." It will kick off with "Atari: Game Over," which chronicles the headline-grabbing expedition to solve one of the most enduring mysteries in video gaming. The filmmakers set out to find the E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, cartridges, based on the '80s blockbuster movie of the same name, which were buried by Atari in New Mexico after the game flopped. (They were unearthed on April 26.)
After Netflix found success with popular and critically lauded shows like House of Cards—which took home three Emmies and a Golden Globe—and Orange is the New Black, online entertainment providers have been rushing to fill their selection screens with exclusive content in a bid to attract viewers.
Amazon, prior to launching its Fire TV set-top box, has been letting viewers decide which of its Amazon Original pilots would get a full series order. Ten new pilots launched on the e-commerce and cloud giant's Prime Instant Video service this year. Last year, viewers championed Alpha House and Betas, along with the kids series Creative Galaxy, Tumble Leaf and Annedroids.
Yahoo, under the leadership of CEO Marissa Mayer, is on the lookout for original content of its own. The company is reportedly getting ready to launch a handful of half-hour comedies with per-episode budgets of up to a few million dollars.
Microsoft, with millions of Xbox 360 and Xbox One consoles in U.S. living rooms, is also on a quest to grab eyeballs with original shows. "We are developing premium, original content for the Xbox community, which is an audience we are incredibly respectful of," said Xbox Entertainment Studios President Nancy Tellem in a statement.