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Microsoft pilots video on demand service

MSN Video Player beta to feature UK TV shows

Microsoft’s MSN service is launching a video on demand service that will give UK consumers the chance to view 300 hours of UK shows such as Peep Show, Shameless, Hustle and the League of Gentlemen for free.

The beta service, dubbed MSN Video Player, will become available from next week and is the result of a partnership between MSN and BBC Worldwide and ALL3MEDIA International. The service will be available to anyone with at least a 650Kbps internet connection, and will run on any operating system.

Microsoft is hoping to cash in on the growing numbers of people watching TV content online using services such as the BBC’s iPlayer, Channel 4’s 4oD and ITV catch up. According to comScore 23% of consumers in the UK watch video online.

Free video on demand

Ashley Highfield, MD and VP of Consumer and Online, Microsoft UK said: ‘We want to be one of the UK’s top free premium video on demand destinations’.

See our free advice section for details of how to watch programmes using the BBC’s iPlayer 

A key part of Microsoft’s strategy appears to be to buck the downturn in TV advertising. ‘We have strong partnerships with leading content providers… the largest digital advertising sales house in the UK. We will be able to help advertisers develop appropriate access points to this hard-to-reach, growing audience,’ said Highfield.

For the pilot of MSN Video Player GroupM will supply online advertisements. The video advertising market is forecast to be the fastest growing sector of the UK advertising market by 2010 – with a 26% growth forecast.

Microsoft’s move follows the cancellation of Kangaroo, a joint BBC, ITV and Channel 4 TV-viewing service that was blocked by regulators in January.

MSN attracts 16 million unique users every month. The new Video Player is an extension of MSN Video, which already offers short videos and has hosted live performances from popular music artists, but time will tell whether it can compete with established services such as the BBC iPlayer.

MSN Video Player will remain in beta for six months and is expected to launch in 2010.

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