Microsoft's No Buzzer-Beater Against Netflix

The stakes are being raised when it comes to exclusive streaming content for the leading video services.

  • Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX  ) has a monster hit on its hands with this month's debut of House of Cards, and several new shows are on the way, including May's long-awaited revival of Arrested Development.
  • Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) is bankrolling several pilots for children's shows, and sources were reporting last month that it is developing a sitcom based on the 2009 sleeper hit Zombieland.
  • Hulu has several proprietary shows on tap, including The Awesomes, an animated superhero series created by Saturday Night Live's Seth Meyers and Michael Shoemaker.

Then we have Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) , whose first foray into original content will kick off with -- LeBron James?

The software giant announced over the weekend that a second season to the viral Web series The LeBrons will stream exclusively through Microsoft's consumer networks, including Xbox LIVE and MSN.

The first season has received 50 million episode views across the Internet since its debut two years ago. The animated series, created by James himself, features a household of characters representing the many sides of James.

Microsoft is a fit that makes sense. The pilot episode in 2011 featured a search on Bing.

However, this is hardly the kind of proprietary content that will rally excitement for Microsoft as it tries to establish its console as the hub of home theater. The first season had its humorous moments, but it was ultimately a preachy series that failed to take creative risks or raise the bar. It was no Fat Albert in terms of aiming for higher moral ground, though it borrows heavily from that show in style. The LeBrons ultimately came off as more of a vanity project. The second season will turn to computer-rendered animation for more immersive imagery, but hopefully Microsoft has more in store for its diehard gamers.

Speculation has been rampant about what Microsoft will do with streaming video now that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has left the company's board of directors. This is a fine appetizer, but Mr. Softy's kitchen had better be cooking up something more.

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