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'Powers' picked up by Sony: original programming craze spreads

A televsion adaption of the comic book Powers will hit PSN
A televsion adaption of the comic book Powers will hit PSN

Powers, a crime noir comic book series about two detectives investigating cases involving people with superhuman abilities, was intended to receive a television adaptation on the FX Network. This was back in 2009.

Five years later, and the television show has yet to appear. After that long, you might think it’s simply dead in the water. The series went through several hurdles on the way to production – the pilot performed poorly, actors came and went – but a new trend in entertainment may just save this unfortunate show from development hell and resurrect it.

Sony announced earlier in the month that it had picked up Powers, and that the show would become its first original television series to stream exclusively on PlayStation consoles via the PlayStation Network.

Taken out of context, the move by Sony may seem silly – ludicrous, even. PlayStation is for games, after all. But after taking into consideration the rest of the landscape revolving the production of original series, it appears this was not only the right option, but the only option.

First off, Sony’s chief competitor in the video game console market, Microsoft, is doing the whole original programming shtick, too. They announced their plans far earlier than Sony, even. Microsoft is teaming with esteemed director Steven Spielberg to produce an original series for Xbox based on Halo, a popular Microsoft-exclusive game series starring an armor-clad space marine fighting against aliens who wield implausibly designed laser swords.

Powers is a decent choice for Sony’s first production. The comic it’s based off of is penned by Brian Michael Bendis, who won 3 Eisner awards (think Oscars for comics) from just Powers alone. Two of those awards were from the Best Writer category, but one from 2001 was for Best New Series. A Best New Series award winner being adapted into television sounds like a pretty safe bet for success, as I’m sure Sony has assessed as well. Plus, it’d give comic book fans an added incentive to buy the PlayStation 4 over Microsoft’s Xbox One, whereas the Halo television series would mostly appeal to fans of the game – who would likely already own the Xbox, anyway.

Original television programming is new territory for both Sony and Microsoft. They step into this arena with not only each other as adversaries, but other service-providing companies in the mix.

First there’s Amazon, who has pulled out all the stops and is planning to release four original shows, a mix of dramas and comedies. The show announcements were seen as a pincushion to soften the blow of an Amazon Prime price hike of $20, but similar to Sony and Microsoft, the TV series are being used as additional incentives for consumers to apply for and maintain subscriptions to the companies’ respective services.

But the strongest wolf in the pack is Netflix. You see, these guys are veterans of the whole original television series thing. That may sound funny, though, since they only started in 2013 with House of Cards. Now in its second season, the original series endeavor has proven wildly successful.

According to broadband data company Procera, only 2% of Netflix subscribers last year watched a House Of Cards episode in the first 24 hours it went live on one US cable provider. This year, 16% of all Netflix subscribers watched the House of Cards episode on season two’s premiere day. That’s a massive 8 times spike from last year’s season opener.

PlayStation and Xbox play video games. Amazon is an online retailer. Netflix streams television shows. Streams. Not produces. Until recently, at least. It may seem silly for these companies to venture so far away from their comfort zones and areas of expertise, doesn’t it? But there’s a valid reason behind each of their decisions to make original series: To boost the perceived strengths of their subscription programs and ward off competitors. There’s definitely a trend in place here – and a new type of competition. To not partake is to not adapt. To not adapt is to…well, I think you got the picture.

Perhaps the only thing left to be said is this: May the best original series win, for the winner may serve as a precedent and provide the foundation for a new format of entertainment production.

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