Last week Microsoft closed 'Soapbox', its little known YouTube rival, but it is already back in business and with something potentially far more progressive...
The software giant and EC sparring partner has announced 'MSN Video Player', a full length video on demand (VOD) beta service for the UK. The service will mark an overhaul of the existing 'MSN Video' offering which currently attracts three million unique visitors per month (nice but YouTube tops 100m)
So what of the content? From this perspective MSN Video Player looks to be off to a good start. It avoids clashes with short term on demand platforms like iPlayer, ITV Player and 4OD by licensing full series of popular shows and has tied up deals with BBC Worldwide and ALL3MEDIA International (creators of many of Channel 4's biggest shows).
Consequently users will be treated to the likes of League of Gentlemen, Mock the Week, Hotel Babylon, What Not to Wear, Dead Ringers, Harry Enfield's Television Programme, Jack Dee Live at the Apollo, That Mitchell and Webb Look and Young Ones from the Beeb. While ALL3MEDIA adds shows such as Shameless, How to Look Good Naked, Peep Show, Elizabeth, Ultimate Force and Mind Control, Messiah and Trick of the Mind from Derren Brown.
Monetisation of MSN Video Player will come via advertising with a traditional trident approach of three circa 30 second ads during the course of the programme: one at the beginning, one at a suitable point in the middle and one at the end. Impressively, Microsoft says it has more than 300 hours of video to go at launch on 3 August and it has sold every single advertising slot.
Looking at the bigger picture, MSN Video Player will be just one of the plethora of companies expected to dive into the on demand space as users viewing habits slowly decentralise from their TVs. Major competition is expected to come from the likes of US kingpin Hulu and YouTube itself which has already sealed deals for full length content for a number of partners also including the BBC.
If I had to place a bet, I'd say this will be the major online battleground over the next few years...