The announcement -- which came at Microsoft's annual conference in Seattle, "MSN's Strategic Account Summit" -- comes just days after Yahoo unveiled its own three-part content strategy that includes user-generated, licensed and original content (though the original content would be a pared-down version of Yahoo's original intent).
MSN's agreement with Reveille, Ben Silverman's TV production company, gives MSN a one-year, exclusive first-look option for all content Reveille develops for the Internet. Additionally, MSN is creating a production fund to be used by Reveille to produce pilots and original branded-entertainment programming designed specifically for the Internet.
Mr. Silverman has had success creating TV shows that resonate online. "The Office" consistently rates as one of iTunes' top video downloads; this summer it will unveil a series of original Webisodes on NBC.com. "Biggest Loser," meanwhile, has generated millions of dollars of incremental revenue through an online dieting community. Mr. Silverman was also a branded-entertainment pioneer, and MSN is open to advertisers' integrating their brands into the original content.
The video content will be both linear and non-linear and incorporate audience participation. MSN said shows that are successful initially online can potentially be extended to other formats, including TV and mobile.
This deal is another example of the co-dependency between TV producers and major Web players. Already Mark Burnett is developing an Internet program, "Gold Rush," for AOL, and Yahoo is working with Michael Davies, creator of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," on one of its original video offerings.
In addition to Reveille, MSN is also working with BeJane.com, a Web community for women's home improvement, which produces instructional multimedia information for women.