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MSN Sets Stage for Live 8 Reprise

Live Earth Expected to Be Viewed by 2 Billion; Website to Focus on Interactivity

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- On July 7, 2007, MSN plans to throw the world's biggest party. It'll draw more than 1 million concertgoers, be viewed by 2 billion people and be the most popular day ever for MSN's global network.
Joanne Bradford, corporate VP-chief media officer, MSN, said Live Earth will be just as big but incorporate more online tools.
Joanne Bradford, corporate VP-chief media officer, MSN, said Live Earth will be just as big but incorporate more online tools.

At least those are the bold predictions the Microsoft ad division and others are touting for their ambitious, just-announced Live Earth concert, set for at least eight venues on 7/7/07. Al Gore, Cameron Diaz and Pharrell Williams were among the folks trotted out to announce the event, which is being presented as part of a deal between MSN and Control Room, a production company that distributes live video of concerts across TV, radio and the web.

Live 8 reincarnated
The event is Live 8 reincarnated, but this time around, the goal is not to end world hunger; it's to raise awareness of ways to slow global warming. Control Room CEO Kevin Wall was the media executive responsible for the Live 8 broadcast, which at the time of its production in July 2005 was trumpeted as the biggest global internet-TV experiment of its time. Through live and on-demand streams, it reached an audience of more than 90 million on Time Warner's AOL. The portal's broadcast was also notable because it was widely considered to have trumped TV channels such as MTV, VH1 and ABC.

Joanne Bradford, corporate VP-chief media officer, MSN, said Live Earth will be just as big but incorporate more online tools.

"The phenomenon in 2005 around Live 8 was, 'I can see this when I want, how I want,'" she said. "Now, it's not just when I want and how I want it, but also how can I share in this cause?" LiveEarth.MSN.com will include video, community, messaging and interactivity, she said.

Requires major prep
Preparing for such a potentially large event will be foremost for MSN, Ms. Bradford said. Tests include events such as the recent Nokia New Year's Eve concert (also a Control Room-produced event), which was broadcast live on MSN from five locations around the world.

The event is inarguably the crown jewel of the relationship between MSN and Control Room. Control Room's predecessor, Network Live, was created in the aftermath of the roaring Live 8 success as a joint venture among AOL, XM and AEG Live. It dissolved a year later, with some parties involved criticizing the model. Network Live relaunched as Control Room and struck a new agreement with MSN to produce 36 concerts a year as part of a $16 million deal.

Ms. Bradford waved off talk that the deal isn't financially fulfilling, saying Control Room has been a great partner and the relationship is on the path to becoming profitable for MSN.

Music is universal
"Music is the universal language," she said. "I'm going to use it to help engage our consumers around the world. ... I'm a huge fan of [Control Room's Mr. Wall], and when he called me about Live Earth, it was one phone call-we're in; it's done."

There will be multiple corporate sponsors for the July 7 event, but Ms. Bradford wouldn't discuss details outside of saying a few clients have already been briefed. Y&R Advertising, New York, will handle creative advertising and promotion for the event on a pro bono basis.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has been briefed on the event but is not personally involved. Microsoft doesn't have a public position on environmental sustainability, Ms. Bradford said. "Our message is really around realizing potential from a corporation point of view and using MSN to enable a cause and as a media outlet," she said.
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