After unleashing original horror shorts for the Xbox, Microsoft (s MSFT) is going further into original productions, this time using content as a means to boost interest in its also-ran media player, the Zune.
According to Variety, the debut original Zune series, Cinemash, is being co-created with Mean magazine and will premier in May. There will be eight episodes that run 3-5 minutes long, each one featuring celebs playing roles they wish they had gotten. Microsoft wouldn’t give us any production budget numbers, but did say that along with the rest of the content being produced for the Zune, Cinemash will be ad-supported and free for users. After its initial run on the Zune platform, the series will make its way onto MSN and Xbox Live.
According to a Microsoft rep, “The series are developed and produced by the Zune team in conjunction with writers, producers and actors.” It sounds like Microsoft will have a lot of input early on, which is precisely why I have low expectations for this project. This is, after all, the company that created the Songsmith commercial. Shudder.
Original and exclusive content isn’t necessarily a bad idea for Microsoft per se, but it should do so by partnering with people who know what they’re doing — and by letting those creative types have the freedom to do what they want. Like when it locked up the second season of the popular web series The Guild last November, or when it brought on experienced directors who worked on films like Saw and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake to create the original horror shorts.
I’ll give credit to Microsoft for trying (and giving work to aspiring web series creators). Let’s just hope they don’t try too hard.