MSN Cuts Deals for Online Content

NEW YORK MSN is making a bold dive into the original Web-only content realm via a new initiative, MSN Originals, while also signing two development deals with Internet producers to generate new series for the portal.

The focus of MSN Originals will be online storytelling, Microsoft officials said. To assist in that endeavor, the company has brokered a deal with Revelle, the production company behind several NBC series, including The Biggest Loser and The Office.

MSN is commissioning Revelle to produce a series of original pilots and other branded entertainment programming. It also maintains a one-year, exclusive first-look at all of the content the company develops for the Internet. Few details have been made available about the nature of these potential shows or when they will debut.

In addition, MSN said it would premiere an original home improvement video series aimed at women through a partnership with the independent Web media company BeJane.com. Heidi Baker and Eden Jarrin, known on the women’s community site as “The Janes,” will co-host the untitled show. No launch date has been set.

Both new MSN Originals projects will feature a combination of editorial, community and video fare. And both will offer numerous opportunities for advertisers, said MSN, ranging from banners and streaming video ads to product placement opportunities.

While MSN’s two primary competitors, AOL and Yahoo, have announced several original content offerings over the past year plus, including projects with several big name producers (such as Mark Burnett, the producer of Survivor and The Apprentice), MSN has been mostly quiet on the this front. The company has signed lower profile deals with Web producers, such as JibJab, the brains behind a Web series of humorous and viral animated clips.

Now, with MSN Originals, the company’s content focus appears to be shifting. “MSN is a leader in creating massive audiences online and in helping marketers effectively reach those audiences,” said John Nicol, general manager of MSN.com. “By partnering with the media industry to add original, interactive, exclusive content to our portfolio, we will drive even deeper engagement with our audience and open up significant new opportunities for advertisers.”