MSN Video Player has been a big enough success through a pilot scheme to be launched as a major new product, and Microsoft is not ruling out offering the service to television manufacturers, on Xbox and through the forthcoming Windows Phone 7 Series.
A million people have already used the ad-funded and free MSN Video Player in beta to watch full-length programmes, trailers and clips, enough of an audience to convince the portal that the service has the appeal to become a key asset for Microsoft.
With users staying for an average of 25 minutes – far more than major catch-up services like ITV Player and 4OD – and advertisers champing at the bit to buy up pre-roll adverts before the features, Microsoft has now sealed deals with the likes of Endemol and Shed Media to expand their offering further.
"We are expanding our catalogue to over 1,000 hours," explained MSN's Rob Crossen. "We've signed a number of new deals…we've gone out there and sourced content that appeals to our audience.
"The other aspect is that we are launching a new platform and it really puts content at the centre. It's not about other brands it's really about programmes.
"The reasons we are chasing the audiences that we are is that we know there is advertiser demand for those audiences because they are very tech savvy.
"It's not a discussion around getting thousands and thousands of hours [of content] it's more about a targeted offering."
The platform is optimised for Microsoft's Silverlight - support that was notably missing from the pilot - although it also works with Flash, and some of the content is available in HD streaming at 720p on connections of 2Mbps and upwards.
Xbox, Windows Phone 7 Series and widgets
With comparisons to the iPlayer inevitable, it's clear that Microsoft could roll out the MSN Video Player to television, its Xbox console, Windows Phone 7 Series and set-top boxes – in the same way as the BBC has puched its offering on multiple platforms from Virgin Media cable to the iPhone.
"What we're doing here is taking MSN beyond what it has typically been known for," added Crossen.
"An obvious place to tale MSN Video Player – given the quality of content that you are seeing on the platform – is the TV, and there are a number of ways that we could do that and in fact the challenge is prioritising so we're looking at a number of opportunities.
"There are a number of ways… widgets on internet connected TVs, we have our own products within the Microsoft network, Xbox and Windows Media Center for instance.
"There are a number of ways that we could choose to explore."
"We have a fantastic product coming later in the year," said Crossen when asked if a mobile MSN Video Player was likely for the forthcoming Windows Phone 7 Series, "but no fixed plans that we are announcing today.
"It's a reflection of our users telling us what they want and they also express their views how they want their content and how they consume it so it's absolutely no mystery to any of us how it could grow."
Xbox users already have access to long-form content through a tie up with the Sky Player and a movie download service, but the concept of a free and ad funded channel is likely to appeal.
The MSN Video Player officially launches tomorrow, go to player.uk.msn.com for more details.
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