MSN Video Launches, Music On Hold

Microsoft's MSN business unit has told MSN Premium customers to expect the launch of MSN Video 2 sometime today. MSN Video is a free service for subscribers offering news, sport and entertainment programming that is entirely subsidized by advertising revenues.

Microsoft confirmed the launch, saying, "MSN Video 2 is expected to launch today per communications sent out to MSN Premium subscribers." However, despite rumors to the contrary, MSN Music will not launch today.

The spokesperson rebuked reports from Windows enthusiast Web sites claiming that MSN Music will also make it debut, stating, "We are excited to confirm that we will be offering a music service later this year, and will have more details to share soon."

MSN Video 2 mimics the Windows Media (WM) Player 10 interface, uses regular WM player controls, supports 16:9 videos, and offers a new flash "showcase" to promote MSN video content. The new player also possesses drag and drop functionality so that users can create custom video playlists.

When videos on the playlist are watched, they are removed from the list and archived in a "recently viewed" category.

According to Microsoft, the goal of these new design efforts is to make it easier for users to discover broad content offerings.

With MSN Video, Microsoft joins rivals America Online, Yahoo! and RealNetworks in mutually exclusive efforts to provide customers with exclusive on demand content available only through their service.

AOL markets on-demand video from Warner entertainment channels as a perk of AOL for Broadband and has flirted with the idea of a la carte movie downloads.

In what may signal the start of a bourgeoning relationship with Movielink, AOL used its customers' collective buying power as leverage to offer obtain discounts on over 600 films in the Movielink library.

RealNetworks recently upped the ante by offering a movie download service that is available with unlimited downloads for a flat fee of $12.95 USD per month. Both RealNetworks and Yahoo! charge subscription fees for access to premium content.

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