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MSN SIGNS 'ROCK STAR' DEAL WITH MARK BURNETT

Will Produce Original Programming for Online Viewers

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In latest expansion of the online video wars, Microsoft Corp.'s MSN has signed a deal with Mark Burnett Productions to broadcast original content from the upcoming reality program Rock Star: INXS, which airs on CBS this summer.
Photo: AP
Mark Burnett, already signed to do original online video programming for Yahoo, has signed a similar reality-show deal with MSN.
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Rival Yahoo
The deal comes only 10 days after MSN rival Yahoo announced its own exclusive arrangement with Mr. Burnett's company to produce a live boxing bout with contestants from NBC's The Contender, which will be available only to online viewers at Yahoo. In addition, Yahoo and Mr. Burnett, the week before, unveiled a multiyear extension of their deal to air re-takes and original content for NBC's hit show The Apprentice. (Mr. Burnett produces The Apprentice as well as Survivor on CBS.)

With broadband penetration among online U.S. households expected to hit 60% this year, the deals demonstrate the extent to which the major purveyors of video online -- which can only be viewed easily on broadband -- are vying to grab and show the most original content in the most innovative ways.

Searching for a lead singer
Rock Star, which debuts July 11, is a competition to find a new lead singer for INXS. (The original lead, Michael Hutchence, died in 1997.) Each week, a contestant will be voted off the show by INXS band members, judges and audience members. A dedicated film crew will tape original content for the Web, such as footage of contestants backstage. MSN will promote the show with online media across its sites.

MSN approached the production house with a proposal to air the content across a number of MSN properties, including sections devoted to video, entertainment, music downloading and the MSN Messenger service. Users can download contestants' songs, and Rock Star products will go up for sale on MSN Shopping. The portal will also build a site for the TV program featuring the latest news and gossip form the show. And MSN will set up fan-chat rooms and blogs on MSN Spaces for contestants to share their thoughts.

The deal was too good to pass up, said Conrad Riggs, a partner at Mark Burnett Productions and Mr. Burnett's front man. "It supplements TV, allowing viewers who want a deeper and richer experience about a property to go there," he said. MSN has 400 million unique visitors per month.

Advertising opportunities
Advertising opportunities will include 15- or 30-second streaming video ads and standard Universal Ad Package ads on the Rock Star: INXS site and throughout the MSN network. "It gives advertisers multiple touchpoints throughout the MSN areas," said Karen Reidetzki, MSN's product manager.

Online-TV package deals will also be offered, Mr. Riggs said.

While MSN is getting a leg up on its competition, Mark Burnett Productions sees the Internet connection for this show as having legs.

"There's an underlying business involving a world tour and albums produced by the lead singer and runners-up," Mr. Riggs said. "INXS is a worldwide recognized band."

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