Magazine article Variety

Playstation Flexes 'Powers'

Magazine article Variety

Playstation Flexes 'Powers'

Article excerpt

CAN A VIDEOGAME CONSOLE LAUNCH A SCRIPTED ORIGINAL SERIES? SONY AIMS TO TRY WITH AN ASSIST FROM ITS SISTER STUDIO

Taking the long road from script Tto screen is not uncommon in Hollywood, but Brian Michael Bendis' "Powers" is notable for more than just its 14-year development journey at Sony Pictures. In 2001, the studio thought the graphic novel had potential as a movie, but that plan didn't get far. Ten years later, "Powers" got another shot as a TV series, with Charles S. Dutton and Lucy Punch in the lead roles, but FX declined to order the pilot to series.

But just when Bendis thought he may have exhausted his options to get the project produced, Sony presented an unexpected possibility: The conglomerate's gaming console, PlayStation, wanted to stream the scripted drama series.

Bendis, who serves as one of the series' executive producers, believes that launching the show via a gaming platform is the best fit. "It just feels right," he said. "There's a huge overlap between comicbook fans and gamers."

Bendis isn't the only one with something to prove; PlayStation itself is out to demonstrate it can do what no other console has yet accomplished: successfully launch an original series the way Netflix and Amazon have done. While PlayStation offers a platform as comparably massive as those other tech giants, this is the same territory where another gaming juggernaut, Microsoft's Xbox, beat a hasty retreat earlier this year amid the kind of corporate slump that has gripped Sony of late as well.

But when the series bows this winter (exact date still to be determined), PlayStation is hoping "Powers" not only will enhance the console, but will help the company upsell PlayStation Plus memberships - $50 annual passes that will provide access to episodes of the show, along with Sony's menu of free games, additional online multiplayer modes, PlayStation Store discounts and online storage across the PS4, PlayStation 3 and PS Vita systems.

"Number one for us is to promote the PlayStation business and PlayStation Plus," said John Koller, VP of platforms marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment America, who is overseeing the original programming foray for the conglomerate. "There's a financial and marketing win in launching ("Powers") the right way."

A dark, R-rated tale about two homicide detectives assigned to investigate cases involving people with superhuman abilities, "Powers" boasts a cast of familiar faces, including Sharlto Copley ("District 9"), Eddie Izzard ("The Riches"), Noah Taylor ("Almost Famous"), Susan Heyward ("The Following") and Michelle Forbes ("Chicago Fire"). "Game of Thrones'" veteran David Slade directed the first two of "Powers'" 10 hourlong episodes. While Sony is not divulging the program's actual budget, it's said to be comparable to most primetime cable series - in the neighborhood of $2 million per episode.

"We wouldn't have been credible with cheap original content," Koller said. "(Gamers) are used to seeing things like 'House of Cards,' 'Orange Is the New Black.' That's where we needed to be."

Because PlayStation owners were using the console to stream Netflix with increasing frequency, Sony saw original content as a way to attract more PlayStation Plus subscribers like Amazon is doing with shows like "Alpha House" and "IVansparent" to drive its Prime upsell. Getting to that point, however, involved a deep dive into understanding whether PlayStation owners had an appetite for something like "Powers." Considering the number of projects across various genres, including horror, adventure and thrillers, PlayStation knew it needed to be authentic to its target gamer audience.

Because of its comicbook source material, the series fits in well with the current trend of caped crusaders at the multiplex and on television, which factored into the decision to greenlight the series. The project also shares a sensibility with two of the series watched most on the Video Unlimited service available on Sony's assortment of streaming devices: "The Walking Dead" and "Breaking Bad. …

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