Microsoft hires former CBS executive, bringing Xbox TV plans into focus

microsoft nancy tellem

Sony’s releasing new, more expensive versions of its existing hardware and Nintendo is busy convincing the world that Wii U is something they actually want. What’s Microsoft doing? Quietly plotting how to take over the average family living room. Television, not high-end graphics and shooters, are the key to the Xbox 720s future, as evidenced by Microsoft’s continuing investment in TV channels, services, and partnerships.

One time CBS Television Studios president Nancy Tellem is the latest armament in Microsoft’s Xbox TV arsenal. Her new title with the company is Entertainment & Digital Media president and her duties will include overseeing Microsoft’s new production studio in Los Angeles.

“The Xbox is already a consumer favorite and we now have a tremendous opportunity to transform it into the center of all things entertainment,” said Tellem in Microsoft’s announcement of the hire, “From games, music and fitness to news, sports, live events, television series and movies—so consumers have on destination for all their entertainment needs.”

Tellem’s certainly got chops in the television arena. After joining CBS in 1997, Tellem oversaw CBS Network Television as it built viewership empires out of shows like Survivor, CSI, and Everybody Loves Raymond. Before that she was a member of Warner Bros. Television’s Business and Financial affairs that backed NBC’s primetime heyday with shows like Friends.

An executive like Tellem will help Microsoft find the footing in the television business it’s struggled to find to date. The company was expected to launch its very own cable style service called Xbox TV in 2011, but those plans were said to be scrapped because Microsoft had trouble getting essential content partners on board. Viacom is happy to run Comedy Central promotions through Xbox Live, and NBC/Comcast are happy to follow suit, but neither wants Microsoft overtaking traditional cable and satellite providers yet.

Tellem can help Microsoft forge those crucial content bonds. With rumors suggesting that Microsoft now plans to partner with cable providers like Time Warner and Comcast with the Xbox 720, offering the console like a cable box, her expertise is essential.

The video game console as television entertainment hub competition will become a race in November. Microsoft already has a powerful, established business with television services on Xbox Live but Nintendo’s Wii U and Nintendo TVii will become a serious threat this year. Most Xbox television services are like behind the Xbox Live Gold pay wall. Nintendo TVii, meanwhile, is 100 percent free.