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Microsoft producing series of Web shows

Software giant says it is diving into the production of Web-only shows that will be natural advertising vehicles.

Watch out, Hollywood. Here comes Microsoft.

At an event it called Digital Showcase, held Thursday in New York, the software giant told a group of ad execs that it is getting into the business of producing original Web shows for its wide range of Web platforms.

According to MediaWeek, Microsoft told the ad execs that the shows it is funding will be naturals for supporting online advertising.

The shows are slated to run on portals like MSN, Xbox Live, and Among the initial series are: 50 Greatest, which MediaWeek said is "a spoof of the multiple pop culture list shows common to VH1 and other cable networks"; and In Need of Repair, "a male-aimed home improvement series featuring a pair of sophomoric, mostly inept hosts."

This is interesting because there's been considerable interest lately in whether Internet shows can replace or at least emerge alongside traditional television series. The interest was particularly intense during the Hollywood writer's strike because studios were desperate for original programming created outside the auspices of the Writer's Guild.

Whether a company like Microsoft can be among the first to succeed with Web-only series is a question that I'm sure a lot of people would like to know the answer to. I certainly wouldn't put it past them, since they can throw a lot of resources at the problem.

The bigger question may be whether they choose good scripts. As we all know, the only way to succeed with any kind of story telling is to tell good stories.

And, I must say, I'm not too optimistic at the prospect of watching inept, sophomoric guys trying to fix things. Then again, King of the Hill has been a huge hit for Fox. So you never know. If the writing's good, anything is possible.

On the other hand, since one of the portals in question is Xbox Live and one of the shows is called In Need of Repair, I can see a few people thinking that the show might be about the well-publicized quality control problems of Microsoft's Xbox video game consoles.