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RealTime IT News

Microsoft Debuts Free MSN Video Service

Leveraging a variety of content assets, Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday announced plans to expand its MSN Video portal.

While AOL Time Warner , RealNetworks and Yahoo are all offering subscription-based video service, Microsoft's offering will be free for MSN subscribers.

MSN Video will have an advantage over added-value Web video services already on the market, including RealNetworks' RealOne SuperPass, Yahoo Platinum and AOL for Broadband.

It is possible Microsoft will charge for its video service in the future, as its strategy has been to migrate customers to Web subscription services, which now include wireless access, photos, online radio, bill payment, greeting cards and online gaming.

Yahoo and RealNetworks charge customers about $10 a month for access to streaming content.

Microsoft has an existing relationship with NBC through its MSNBC alliance, and much of the content will initially come from a variety of NBC-related video properties.

Microsoft is branding the new service MSN Video, and it is currently in trials testing the software for launch in late 2003.

The actual content will be available on Microsoft's Media 9 Series video player and initially, MSN Video will leverage a variety of NBC-related media content, but the company plans to expand its content roster in the near future.

The advertising-backed MSN Video service will embed 15-second spots for every five to six minutes of video content, Microsoft said.

Some of the content on MSN Video will include excerpts of NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, Dateline NBC, the Today Show, Meet the Press, and programs from CNBC.

The beta version of MSN Video was formally launched on Tuesday. The service will be broadly available by this winter.

Microsoft described MSN Video as the "debut of a high-quality broadband video player with no monthly subscriptions, no annual fees -- no charge at all to consumers."

"Unlike other online networks that charge consumers for broadband video services, MSN will offer free access to high-resolution, on-demand news, sports, entertainment and other video, including programming from NBC News and MSNBC.com that isn't available anywhere else on the Web," Microsoft said in a statement.

Microsoft is working with Starcom MediaVest Group to help "develop the media-buying components of MSN Video."