Microsoft Corp. is facing an increasing competition in the online video realm. To boot, MSN video is currently the sixth place video destination in the United States and that spot is far behind Google's YouTube, AOL's Time Warner, and News Corp.'s MySpace. This is why the software giant is expanding affiliations to cover the wine maker Chivas Brothers Ltd. and the Swedish automaker Volvo Cars.
Microsoft has signed deals with Chivas and Volvo to support two new web series from Reveille, the company behind "The Office" and the "Ugly Betty" television shows. The two new shows include the "Driving School" which would be coming as a comedy about a driving instructor who shares life lessons to his students. The show will be hosted by actor Craig Robinson, who plays Darryl on NBC's The Office.
The other show titled "This is the Life," is about travel and adventure linked to a Chivas Regal advertising campaign. The shows will arrive on MSN Web site in the next six months, Microsoft announced Tuesday at an advertising industry conference. Microsoft did not disclose the financial or product-placement arrangements of the deals.
Last month, 11.5 million people visited MSN video, and spent an average of five and a half minutes on the site as compared with the 45 million people who each spent about 41 minutes on YouTube, according to Nielsen / NetRatings.
It could be recalled that after the acquisition of Google Inc. of YouTube, an online video Web site, the same has become a white-hot topic. Advertisers and ad brokers rushed to turn the trend of web equivalent TV ads into dollars. Since then, short spots before or after a video clip online became an instant success.
According to Gayle Troberman, the general manager of branded entertainment Microsoft at, those will remain a staple of Microsoft's video advertising inventory. But advertisers are also experimenting with original series and user-generated videos as they venture to capture even deeper connections with online purchasers.
In 2006, Microsoft and Reveille produced a handful of MSN shows that fall somewhere between advertising and programming. Troberman touted "Chef to the Rescue," which is sponsored by Kraft Foods Inc., as one remarkable success story from the Reveille partnership. The software giant said that after the cooking show's launch in December, over 250,000 viewers printed out related recipes featuring Kraft products.
While it is tempting to label the shows advertorials and leave it at that, Ben Silverman, Reveille's chief executive, said that he has tried to find more elegant ways to incorporate products and entertainment. "I do not want to be in something where you're ruining that content by stupid, clunky choices," said Silverman.
Microsoft said it planned to expand its commitment to developing original content built around branded entertainment opportunities, announcing during an afternoon session at the company's Strategic Accounts Summit (SAS) in Seattle, Wash., That it will extend its current relationship with the production firm Reveille while also launching several other new Web content projects.
"We are the leader of original content creation online," said Joanne Bradford, the corporate vice president and the chief media officer for MSN, citing the 20 plus Web series the portal has launched in the past year. Among those original series is Chef to the Rescue, a result of a partnership between it and Reveille announced at the summit last year.
While others have speculated that MSN's partnership with Reveille has been slow to yield success, Bradford said the two companies had agreed to extend their relationship, though she forgot to say the duration. During Tuesday's presentation, Bradford ardently greeted Reveille CEO Ben Silverman – the brains behind the TV hits The Office and The Biggest Losers – with a pair of kisses before handing him the stage.
Volvo has signed on as that show's charter sponsor. The shows Through, the Swedish Could Flaunt the automaker Volvo by master cylinder , safety scanner features, and : other milestone innovations. As such, it is expected for this trend to plague the entire Web. Silverman said that while he still believed that TV was a great brand builder, his company's Web creations offer advertisers much deeper access that is unheard of in the TV business. "I'm always really annoyed that I'm kept out of those conversations [with TV advertisers]," he said. "[The networks] do not get it yet."
Silverman was not the only partner to share the moment at SAS. Allen Shapiro, the CEO of Dick Clark Productions and president of the Mosaic Media Group, discussed the success of a Golden Globes content program launched earlier this year with MSN – one that TV partner NBC was wary of. This year, his company – which owns the rights to many early TV performances of music stars like Prince and Madonna, is exploring launching a classic rock channel with MSN, along with a potential comedy network. "We're now determined to step this up," said Shapiro.