Microsoft Signs Web Video Deals
Microsoft Corp. has signed deals with Volvo Car Corp. and whisky maker Chivas
Brothers Ltd. to support two new Web-only video series from Reveille, the production
company behind TV shows "The Office" and "Ugly Betty."
The two new shows -- "Driving School," a comedy about a driving instructor
who imparts life lessons to his students, and "This is the Life,"
a travel and adventure show linked to a Chivas Regal advertising campaign --
will arrive on Microsoft's MSN Web site in the next six months, the software
maker announced Tuesday at an advertising industry conference here.
Microsoft would not give details about financial or product-placement arrangements
with Chivas Regal and Volvo, part of Ford Motor Co.
After Google Inc. made online video a white-hot topic with its late
2006 acquisition of YouTube, advertisers and ad brokers scrambled to turn
the trend into dollars with the Web equivalent of TV commercials -- short spots
before or after a video clip online.
Those will remain a staple of Microsoft's video advertising inventory, said
Gayle Troberman, general manager of branded entertainment at Microsoft.
But advertisers are also experimenting with original series and user-generated
videos as they seek even deeper connections with customers online.
In the past year, Microsoft and Reveille produced a handful of MSN shows that
fall somewhere between advertising and programming. Troberman touted Kraft Foods
Inc.-sponsored "Chef to the Rescue" as one success story to emerge
from the Reveille partnership. Microsoft said after the cooking show's December
launch, more than 250,000 viewers also printed out related recipes featuring
Microsoft faces increasing competition in online video. MSN video is now the
sixth-place video destination in the U.S., lagging YouTube and sites from Google,
Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, News Corp.'s MySpace and Yahoo Inc. In April, 11.5 million
people visited MSN video, and spent an average of five and a half minutes on
the site, compared with 45 million people who each spent nearly 41 minutes on
YouTube, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.
While it's tempting to label the shows advertorials and leave it at that, Ben
Silverman, Reveille's chief executive, said he's tried to find more elegant
ways to incorporate products and entertainment.
"I don't want to be in something where you're ruining that content by
stupid, clunky choices," said Silverman.