MSN’s Big On Entertainment

MSN wants to entertain you. A reggae concert and a Latino music site are the latest lures.

On Saturday, MSN will host its first live concert Webcast, broadcasting the 13th Annual Bob Marley Festival “Jam Rock” from Miami. The festival, presented by the Bob Marley Movement, features two-time Grammy winner Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, Julian Marley, Kaymani Marley and Mother Cedella Marley Booker, along with Toots and the Maytals, Maxie Priest, Mos Def and Dianah King.

“Entertainment is one of the fastest-growing areas in the video service,” said Rob Bennett, MSN’s general manager of entertainment and video services. “You’ll see much deeper entertainment content coming from MSN through partners in the coming year.”

Bennett said his newly created post shows MSN’s increasing investment in content. Pointing out that MSN has added more than 50 content partners in the past two years, ranging from “National Geographic” to the edgy, satirical JibJab, he said, “Across all of MSN, we’re investing in deepening the content offerings in areas we know users care about and making it a more participatory experience.”

A preview of the concert already is available, and MSN plans to add highlights and a replay on-demand of the show.

MSN also joined with entertainment trade magazine Billboard to create a co-branded Spanish-language Latino music Web site. It features articles covering the 2006 Billboard Latin Music Conference Awards, information about the history of the awards show, Billboard reviews of archived albums for the 2006 Billboard Latin Music Award nominees and photos from the event.

Eventually, the site will include a wide variety of content, including live performances, video clips and artist interviews, along with articles from “Billboard” magazine and translated into Spanish.

“Latino Americans are a huge audience for us,” Bennett said. Last year, the company launched a version of MSN Video on its Latino portal, with content from across the Americas. “It’s an importance audience to us, and one that’s continuing to grow very rapidly,” he said.

The business model for these and other content offerings will remain advertising, according to Bennett.”

In additional to network advertising sold on the Jam Rock and Billboard sites, he wants to expand more integrated advertising offerings, such as the Miles Thirst promotion MSN created last year for Sprite. The Scenario was a promotional site within MSN Music aimed at teens, especially males, featuring hip-hop DJs and the Miles Thirst animated character from Sprite’s TV and Web ad campaigns.

Yahoo , the most highly trafficked site on the Internet, is considered by many in the industry as the one to beat in terms of content, while AOL is following up on the success of its Live8 concert Webcasts with a fierce focus on content.

Bennett said MSN’s competitive strengths were the breadth of its offering today and the strength of its audience of 440 million global users. “Our challenge,” he said, “is to get those people more active and engaged in the content, more participatory.”

He sees entertainment as the key, adding, “There’s a ton of energy around really building out the MSN media network and being a rich media portal.”

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