The Microsoft Upfront played to buyers at a glitzy venue in Chelsea, featuring canapes, drinks and an eye-popping performance from burlesque circus Lucent Dossier on Monday afternoon. Sure, there were new show announcements. But the most memorable part of the event was perhaps when the A/V setup that dropped out near the end of the presentation. And then there was a a brief moment during which one of the acrobats dropped a flaming palm torch on the scaffolding high above the heads of the ad buyers.
(Everything was safely extinguished though the presentation of a new movie-star-filled documentary series Years of Living Dangerously may have lost the attention of a few viewers.
Also eyebrow raising: Not a word was spoken of the entertainment console Microsoft is planning to follow the XBox 360 although presenters did allude to an upcoming presentation around the new device. Instead, the focus was on Microsoft's vision for seamless user experience from device to device and on new programming. Microsoft's slate included a second season of CGI cartoon The Lebrons, a new show following photographer/scenester Kirsten Brophy from dance party to dance party around the world, and several other new series Microsoft will run under its new entertainment portal, which was presented to buyers with a working title of "Stagedoor."
Speaking of stages, while cocktails were served and dancers gyrated on the stage and the catwalks, Microsoft execs held court and showed off their wares. Scott Ferris, gm of the company's TV and video advertising group, said that he didn't see the new offerings as competitive with television, rather as complementary.
"We don't really look at it as 'how do we get money from that budget?'" he said. "TV is very effective. It's very efficient." Ferris was enthusiastic about the PC-to-tablet-to-phone-to-television experience, as curated by Microsoft's interlocking operating systems. "We'll be able to tell a story across all these devices," he said.
More than one show featured an electronic dance music (EDM) backdrop. Brophy's series includes parties where DJs play the latest styles, and another show featured three stylistically different EDM artists rooming together and trying to make their respective ways in the world. It's the second of the NewFronts to feature that particular music scene. Machinima ended its presentation with an announcement that it would be partnering with EDMer Ultra, and there's been plenty of dubstep at several of the presentations.
The aforementioned Lucent Dossier will also be featured on a Microsoft show, which should be safe to watch from the comfort of your couch.