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November 24, 2008 10:46 AM
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano
Microsoft is adding to its stable of independent and original online video with a deal to distribute "The Guild," a popular Web-only show about a band of online gamers. Its second season will be available exclusively on Xbox Live, MSN and Zune, according to The Hollywood Reporter (via Reuters).
Microsoft is evolving its video offerings on Xbox Live and other distribution channels, trying to find content that fits the tastes of its audience. "The Guild" deal follows this summer's announcement that Microsoft would co-produce, with Safran Digital Group, a series of exclusive comedic shorts -- directed by noted horror-film directors -- for free distribution over Xbox Live.
"They love this new, original broadband content," Scott Nocas, an Xbox Live group product manager, said in July. "We really think that providing that content directly to your television with an HD experience as opposed to looking at it in a tiny window of your computer is a really fun compelling experience, so we wanted to launch that as a new category of content."
"The Guild" describes itself as an "independent sitcom webisode about a group of online gamers." The webisodes run three to six minutes and are full of quick dialogue and cuts to each character at their computer. The show's Web site drew 9 million hits for the first season.
The Hollywood Reporter outlined a complex relationship between "The Guild" and Microsoft, including a sponsorship by Sprint, "the first marketer to test Microsoft's new strategy to draw ad dollars with the combined reach of a gaming console, Internet portal and portable media player."
Felicia Day, (left) creator, writer-producer and star of "The Guild" is retaining intellectual property rights to the show, according to The Reporter, "while collecting an unspecified upfront license fee.
"A who's who of Web brands courted Day for rights to 'Guild,' from old-media companies to gamer-centric ad networks, though many insisted on retaining the traditional set of rights.
"But Day had been holding out for more than a year in search of a deal that gave her control of the creative and business sides of 'Guild.' 'I was adamant about holding on to the rights of my series,' she said.
"As a result, Microsoft will not participate in revenue should 'Guild' eventually graduate to TV or film, though the corporation does hold on to any gaming-related extensions."
That's a significant difference from the Safran collaboration, which marked Microsoft's first original content producer credit, a spokesperson said at the time. "We get to be a part of it throughout the entire life cycle of the IP," Nocas said of the Safran partnership in a July interview.