Microsoft is taking on Netflix by launching a major new sci-fi drama series which will premiere simultaneously on the Xbox games console and Channel 4.
Humans, a thriller about robotic domestic servants who rebel against their human masters, will be brought to the screen by Kudos, the company behind Broadchurch and Spooks.
Microsoft hopes the series, based on a hit Swedish format, and co-produced by its Xbox Entertainment Studios, will help transform the Xbox from a gaming platform into an entertainment “hub”, luring consumers with on-demand programming.
The computer giant is prepared to spend heavily on original productions to drive subscriptions to its Xbox Live platform, following the success which film and television streaming service Netflix has enjoyed after investing in acclaimed series including House Of Cards.
Future Microsoft television projects include a series based on the Halo game series, produced by Steven Spielberg, a Sarah Silverman sketch show and a football-oriented programme set to debut ahead of the World Cup.
The partnership with Channel 4 helps the UK broadcaster bring more ambitious, high-end drama to viewers. Humans will be written by the British writing partnership Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley (Spooks). An English language adaptation of a Sveriges Television thriller, the eight-part series will premiere next year.
The series is set in a parallel present where the latest must-have gadget for any busy family is a “Synth” - a highly-developed robotic servant that is practically a replicant of real humans.
When a father of three buys a refurbished second-hand Synth to relieve domestic pressure, the introduction of the machine has “far-reaching and chilling consequences”.
Jane Featherstone, Executive Producer at Kudos, said: “Exploring themes of love, discrimination and integration, this thrilling, beautifully written series allows us to get under the skin of what it means to be human in the most compelling way. The bold, innovative storylines and subject matter lend themselves perfectly to this pioneering collaboration with Channel 4 and Xbox.”
Nancy Tellem, President of Microsoft’s Xbox Entertainment Studios, said: “Humans not only questions personal relationships, but we loved how this sci-fi show toys with reality and our connection to technology.”
She added: “This deal with Channel 4 and Kudos underscores Xbox Entertainment Studios' commitment to programming premium TV series with global partners and creating engaging interactive experiences – and sits alongside other original commissions including a Halo TV series executive produced by Steven Spielberg.”
Piers Wenger, Channel 4 Head of Drama, said: “In Humans, Sam and Jon have not only crafted an ingenious and imaginative thriller, but they’re also asking big, thought-provoking questions about how we live.”