Microsoft to make mash-up videos for Zune

Zune takes on Hollywood with celeb-packed Cinemash shorts
Zune takes on Hollywood with celeb-packed Cinemash shorts

In the latest move to kick-start its struggling Zune media player, Microsoft is turning movie producer.

The software giant announced today that it is working with pop culture Mean magazine to produce Cinemash, a new digital series that humorously reinvents classic scenes from popular movies.

(I wonder if they will humorously reinvent the humorous reinventions of Be Kind, Rewind?)

Sounds a bit like Extras, too

The bimonthly Mean mag has already produced Cinemash shorts in which celebrities such as James McAvoy, Elizabeth Banks, Kate Beckinsale, Sir Ben Kingsley and Seth Rogen reenact famous roles they have always dreamed of playing.

The Cinemash episodes will be ad-supported and available exclusively at Zune Marketplace in the US for free download this spring.

"Video is an important part of the Zune experience, and by working with cutting-edge partners like Meanwe giving our customers original programming they can't get anywhere else," said Paul Davidson, lProducer for Zune, pointedly not mentioning Apple iTunes or iPods.

Creating a vertical channel has worked well for Sony, which often cross-promotes its blockbuster movies and offers exclusives through its Blu-ray and PlayStation brands.

More videos coming, Zuner than later

Microsoft's efforts are far more modest, of course, although the company has big plans. Zune promises to "develop additional pilots over the next 12 months ranging from live-action and animated comedy to urban and music programming."

Although giving Zune media players a boost is the main intention of the Cinemash programme, Davidson admits, "We will also look to expand distribution across other Microsoft platforms to make the series available to an even larger audience on MSN and Xbox Live."

To date, Microsoft has sold around 3 million Zune players, compared to over 170 million Apple iPods.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.