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MSN Formalizes Branded-Entertainment Deal With Science & Fiction

SF-Based Studio Becomes Preferred Production Partner for Web Video Content

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Eighteen months after the release of their first co-production, Mindshare Entertainment's "In the Motherhood," Microsoft's MSN and San Francisco-based production studio Science & Fiction are formalizing their partnership to create branded-entertainment projects for MSN.com.
'Fearless,' still in current rotation on MSN, exceeded MSN's traffic projections within the first three weeks of airing.
'Fearless,' still in current rotation on MSN, exceeded MSN's traffic projections within the first three weeks of airing.

The deal makes Science & Fiction a preferred production partner for MSN, following recent branded-entertainment projects such as the second season of "Motherhood" for Suave and Sprint, and the current "Fearless" for General Motors' Hummer H2.

Seeking viral formula
Kevin Townsend, founder and managing partner of Science & Fiction, said the economic downturn has made marketers re-evaluate their online marketing spend in order to maximize their return on investment, including branded online video. "What everybody asks is, 'How do you make this go viral?' But it's not like you get to just dial that one up," he said. "The closest thing I've found to a viral video is getting exposed to as many sets of eyeballs as possible, allowing for the biggest audience possible. And that's what MSN enables us to do."

Mr. Townsend has seen encouraging metrics from his projects with MSN, including 3 million viewers for the first season of "Motherhood" and 6 million viewers for the second. The show will become a full-length sitcom for ABC, slated to premiere in spring 2009. "Fearless," still in current rotation on MSN, exceeded MSN's traffic projections within the first three weeks of airing.
Kevin Townsend
Kevin Townsend

Michael Siegenthaler, director of MSN's Branded Entertainment and Experiences, said the key to getting branded video noticed on MSN is to present it seamlessly among editorial content on the MSN home page. "What we're always trying to do is find concepts, shows and ideas that really resonate with our audience. Obviously, it's a very democratic process, and people vote with their clicks, so we know when we've created something that's really jumping off."

Pipeline fills up
Mr. Townsend said Science & Fiction currently has three to four projects in development for the first half of 2009 with MSN, a slate that may change depending on the brands' needs and objectives. "What we want to do is nimbly react to the needs of the marketplace," he said. "Science & Fiction has a good reputation for developing good original content. We want to look at brands' needs and develop from the ground up."

Added Mr. Siegenthaler, "For us, it's really all about where the brands guide us. Everything we do starts with a briefing -- not tossing ideas over the wall as much as going in and taking everything you can do with a communications strategy. It's not just demographics but psychographics -- taking those in-house and really collaborating on ideas that are perfect for the brand and perfect for our audience."
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