2 More Companies Will Provide Buzzy Roles

Photo Source: Melinda Sue Gordon

The upcoming foray into scripted development by technology companies such as Microsoft and Yahoo could mean increased opportunity for new talent.

Established performers such as Kevin Spacey, who stars on Netflix’s “House of Cards,” and John Goodman, who anchors the cast of Amazon Studios’ “Alpha House,” have so far dominated the attention paid to the casts on the new-platform series. But some young performers have been able to further their careers from their turns on, say, “Betas.” Karan Soni, for instance, has gone on to book other television and film roles despite the Amazon series being canceled after one season.

“I think the new scripted series on platforms like the Sony PlayStation, Xbox, Yahoo, Hulu, and Amazon are a great way for newcomers, as well as established talent, to gain exposure,” said Alyssa Weisberg, who cast “Betas” and consulted on other Amazon projects. “All of these platforms have great content in development and production. It’s very exciting.”

While Amazon recently ordered four more pilots to series—and renewed “Alphas” for a second season—Yahoo is reportedly close to greenlighting four Web series, while Xbox’s television studio has plans for six series.

Their moves into scripted programming mirror those of Netflix, which skipped the pilot process and ordered “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black” straight to series.

Sony is also getting in on the action with its own original series for PlayStation called “Powers,” a one-hour drama based on a graphic novel by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Avon Oeming.

These could be just the first of many Web-based productions to come from the companies, whose main business is not scripted entertainment.

Yahoo, for instance, is willing to invest significant resources, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company is planning 10-episode, half-hour comedies with per-episode budgets of $700,000 to a few million dollars.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Xbox series have already attracted top talent. The company’s TV studio is set to produce a comedy sketch show with Sarah Silverman and Michael Cera’s group JASH.

Nancy Tellem, a former CBS executive whom Microsoft hired to oversee its scripted development for Xbox, said the company will push ahead with additional projects.

“This is not an easy business,” Tellem told Bloomberg. “There’s a huge failure rate. You have to get up to the plate a lot. Hopefully we can have a higher batting average than most, but it’s a long process.”