Nancy Tellem, who was CBS Network TV president and then launched Microsoft’s short-lived Xbox Entertainment Studios, has re-emerged as Executive Chairman and Chief Media Officer of Interlude. The company made its name initially in interactive music videos for Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Coldplay and others but is broadening its focus to other kinds of interactive video entertainment, both as a producer of original content and service provider for big brands.
As CBS president, Tellem oversaw both the network and CBS Studios. At Microsoft, she headed Xbox Entertainment Studios, which was charged with creating new kinds of interactive video programming for Microsoft’s next-gen game console, the Xbox One. The unit developed two documentaries and an episodic series before new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella dramatically shifted the company in a new direction and killed off its entertainment initiatives. The studios were wiped out as part of more than 18,000 layoffs at Microsoft last year. Tellem left in October.
Interlude – originally from Tel Aviv but now with offices in New York City and Culver City, CA – drew a great deal of attention in the music business for interactive videos tied to big bands such as Led Zeppelin, for which it created an interactive video for the 40th anniversary of the band’s iconic Physical Graffiti album. Other prominent projects included the official Dylan music video for “Like A Rolling Stone” and Wiz Khalifa’s “Staying Out All Night.”
Now the 5-year-old company is diversifying into other areas, and Tellem will be asked to lead that effort as Chief Media Officer and Executive Chairman, after spending six months previously on the company board. Now Interlude is creating interactive advertising, corporate training materials, reality shows, even a film. Some of its work will focus on its own original intellectual property, and other projects will involve providing the technological backbone for another company’s brand.
“I’ve always been really focused on where things are going,” she said. “Technology has really impacted our traditional media space. This is a really exciting opportunity to build a significant business.”
Part of her work will be reaching out to her connections throughout traditional media, especially on the TV side, where she worked for many years.
Tellem said that though the Microsoft initiative was cut short, working in the game industry was enormously influential on her thinking about the future of entertainment.
“It was an amazing experience,” she said, “the ability to build that business and understand the power of gaming. (We’re going to create content) that takes advantage of gaming features. It’s a natural next step.”
The game business, in its broadest definition, is expanding massively, with more than 1 billion people worldwide playing games at least monthly. That shift will only increase as more people get used to using touch-sensitive screens to navigate not just smartphones and tablets but also larger screens such as those of computers, Tellem said. In turn, that will impact the way people interact with video, in ways that are far from passive.
Tellem’s new role takes effect immediately. She’ll be working with the company’s founder and CEO, Yoni Bloch, President Jim Spare and Music President Brian Harris Frank.
“We are reimagining video for a generation that wants to do more than just watch passively, which is why we are focused on amazing experiences that are both playful and thought provoking,” said Bloch. “Nancy shares our passion and has the vision to build off our current success. We are very fortunate to have someone of her stature to guide our company’s growth.”
To see some of Interlude’s projects in action, go to this gallery of projects they’ve done.