Words that shocked the industry:
“…in the coming months, we expect to close Xbox Entertainment Studios. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the accomplishments from the entire team in XES. They have built an impressive slate of original programming and pioneered interactive entertainment on Xbox.”
And while we have already given a detailed recount of what went wrong and why Microsoft/Xbox would venture down Original Programming Lane for the second time in seven years, the bigger question begging an answer is: what of the “impressive slate of original programming and…interactive entertainment”?
This is likely the first question any IP-mongering television executive would ask and it’s not uncommon in Hollywood to see studios and networks return the IP rights back to the original holders if the project doesn’t get made. Sometimes this can be years; sometimes a series of drawn out moments.
But for XES-partnered producers, the superficial answer was already addressed by Microsoft’s head of Xbox and Microsoft Studios Phil Spencer in a company-wide memo — select titles already in production will be seen through.
“I would hope that creators have the chance to take their IP back, re-energize it and find new distribution. The executives [at XES] had good taste — a lot of really fun projects and hopefully they will see the light of day,” said former Microsoft employee Scott Nocas, who also led the launch of Xbox’s first foray into originals in 2008.
See the light of day, they will!
In fact, there are two paths already quietly unfolding.
Sources who have titles with XES have told VideoInk that over the last few weeks, Xbox Entertainment Studios began offering the rights back to creators whose projects were in various stages of early development and production.
One such company — Jash — has distributed a comment that insinuates they have retained the rights to their project “Jash Presents Rubberhead” and confirms it will be moving forward with scheduled taping this Saturday.
“We’re excited to announce “Jash Presents Rubberhead” — a variety show whose first episode is hosted by Sarah Silverman — is still taping this weekend and will have a new home come August.”
“Rubberhead” sat alongside a series of projects laid out by XES at the 2014 Newfronts that pushed the quality of “digital” content closer to TV.
Given the anticipated performances of prominent comedy talent like Eric Wareheim, Seth Rogen, Nathan Fielder, and Charlyne Yi, I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets snapped up by another subscription-based platform like Netflix or Hulu, especially given their comedy focus, or even a TV network.
In fact the programming in development for XES was so strong, others on the slate could have similar fates — pending they are given the option to take back the rights for their projects.
But if not, we’re hearing that just like any massacre, the buzzards were circling as soon as the rumors surfaced. Offers on the table to acquire the content rights from Xbox quickly emerged, according to a source.
And in truth, for the right opportunistic visionary (Ryan Kavanaugh, are you reading this?), acquiring XES’s slate, and seasoned, TV/digital-savvy team to keep the projects moving forward could be a big win. The right bidder, like a Fullscreen, who has been inching into the original IP game, could then just re-license the interactive content back to Xbox and either self-distribute or shop the content for other distribution deals.
News like this always shakes up the industry, but like we told you, this was a symptom of a larger internal struggle. It’s good to know that this slate likely won’t stay locked in the Xbox IP vault for long.