One of the first "programming" initiatives to evolve from NBC's long-term relationship with Microsoft Corp. has nothing to do with Microsoft Network but is instead an NBC Sports adaptation of the Windows 95 computer operating system.
On Aug. 26 and 27, the weekend following the debut of Windows 95, NBC Sports will transform the TV screens of millions of viewers into what look like computer screens.
From the opening of "NFL on NBC" at 1:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday to the close of NBC's U.S. Volleyball Championships coverage at 6 p.m. on Sunday, every NBC sports program will open from within an inset that resembles the Windows 95 interface.
Every transition from one sports program to another that weekend will also begin within the Windows 95 box.
"This will be actual NBC Sports programming. It is not a promotion," said John Miller, senior VP at NBC Sports.
Mr. Miller said that the unit is taking the unusual step of showcasing the new computer product because "it is one of the hottest new products of the year" and also because NBC Sports "wants to show Microsoft what good strategic partners we can be."
He insisted the unusual editorial treatment of the product launch has nothing to do with the roughly $100 million Microsoft is projected to drop on TV ad buys that weekend-even though Microsoft has an extensive placement on NBC.
"We're doing it because we have a partnership with Microsoft and we want it to grow strong and similar to the one we have with the NBA. We want it to be something where the contract is just a starting point," said Martin Yudkovitz, NBC senior VP-strategic development and senior VP of NBC Multimedia.
The first fruit of that partnership will be NBC Online on MSN.
But while some units, including NBC Sports and NBC Entertainment, will have fairly robust areas at the online service's launch, most others will be works in progress.
One area focuses on national and local weather information that is being co-developed with WSI Weather Service.
"You will see a picture of our local affiliate's weather person and hear that person's voice with a five-day forecast. It's local information on a national basis," said Mr. Yudkovitz.
But perhaps the most robust NBC presence on MSN at launch will be Peacock Park, an original content area developed by NBC Marketing that will include promotions, giveaways and numerous tie-ins with advertisers.
The area also is available in a slightly different form on NBC's World Wide Web site (http://www.nbc.com).
NBC has begun offering charter online advertising positions in six categories, said Alan Cohen, NBC exec VP-marketing. He said that the incumbents will have the right to develop original programming, including branded shows, on MSN.
"Peacock Park is not the only area for advertisers. They will be involved in news, sports, entertainment and our cable areas. All will be areas where they can play," Mr. Cohen said. He declined to say how much NBC expects to charge for the charter positions.
NBC Marketing and NBC Multimedia also are now offering their interactive marketing and programming services to advertisers separately from network promotional tie-ins, Mr. Cohen said.
"We're selling it. We've gone past the point of value-adding it," he said.
Indeed, the two NBC advertisers that initially will debut on NBC Online on MSN are Nintendo of America and Colgate-Palmolive Co., both of which are engaged in extensive fall marketing promotions for NBC's new schedule, including interactive elements.