Details of Ballmer's trek to California were revealed by Deadline on Tuesday, which reported that Ballmer was accompanied by Microsoft Entertainment Studios President Nancy Tellem. The pair reportedly met with executives at the network CBS, talent agency William Morris Endeavor, and "other bigwigs in the TV business."
Ballmer is said to have pitched executives on the functionality and potential of the Xbox One as it relates to "sports, music, reality and scripted programming." But the CEO also reassured content providers that Microsoft isn't interested in becoming a "cable channel."
Ballmer is not known for any sort of preexisting relationship with Hollywood, standing in stark contrast to late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who owned Oscar-winning animation studio Pixar before selling it to Disney. Jobs even attended the Academy Awards in 2010, where "Up" won the Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score.
Jobs was also a member of the Walt Disney Co. Board of Directors, and the relationship between him and the company led to a number of content deals over the years for Apple's iTunes and the App Store. Specifically, before he was Disney's current CEO, Bob Iger worked closely with Jobs to bring Disney's movie and TV content to iTunes at a time when other major studios hesitated to ink a deal with Apple. Iger is now a member of Apple's board.
Apple's current regime may also have to take their own trips to Hollywood to woo content providers, if longstanding rumors of a full-fledged television set or expanded set-top box are true. Speculation has suggested that the difficulties in securing deals with content providers have been one roadblock against Apple making a larger push into the living room.
Microsoft, meanwhile, hopes to make an even bigger splash this fall with the debut of its new Xbox One gaming console, the successor to its successful Xbox 360. The Xbox One was unveiled at a media-centric event last month, where the Redmond, Wash., company billed the system as a voice- and motion-controlled all-in-one entertainment hub.
Arguably the key feature in Microsoft's new console is an HDMI input, which will allow the Xbox One to integrate with and even control existing cable boxes and other home entertainment systems. By allowing high-definition video to simply pass through the console, Microsoft will be able to provide users with its own entertainment experience without the need to obtain the necessary licenses from content providers and cable companies.