Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Microsoft to create original web shows

Nearly 10 years after wholeheartedly but prematurely embracing original entertainment programming on the Web, Microsoft is re-entering the fray. But instead of attempting to contort itself into a media company by hiring scores of relatively unknown writers and producers and go it virtually alone, this time Microsoft has chosen to team up with some high-profile Hollywood talent.

The first deal for its MSN Originals initiative is an alliance with Ben Silverman, one of the prime movers behind importing the reality show craze to the United States and the producer of shows like "The Office" and "The Biggest Loser" on NBC.

The one-year, multimillion-dollar deal calls for the creation of 10 Web pilots for MSN, each tailored to one or more strengths of the Web. Four shows have already been given the go-ahead, including a short-form comedy that can be described, in classic high-concept Hollywood style, as "The Office" meets "Reno 911" meets "Airplane," doled out in two-and-a-half minute bits starting this fall. Adding to the sitcom verisimilitude: Tom Arnold is close to signing on to star as the lovably flawed pilot for a commuter airline.
More from Lorne Manly in The New York Times.

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