MSN to Limit Pre-Roll Video Ads

NEW YORK MSN said it plans to significantly limit the number of pre-roll video ads it delivers to users as part of a major overhaul of MSN Video scheduled to go live on Sept. 26.

Through the use of a new algorithm, MSN’s video ad scheduling will based on an individual user’s time spent on the site rather than the number of clips viewed by that user, as is commonplace in this still early stage of online video’s development. MSN users will now only see a video ad every three minutes they spend streaming content on the site.

According to Rob Bennett, MSN’s general manager, video, entertainment and sports, the previous ad model often resulted in the less than ideal scenario of users seeing a 30-second spot followed by a 15-second piece of content and then another 30-second spot. “That’s not a good experience for users,” he said.

Despite cutting back on more guaranteed ad impressions, MSN believes that a better experience will lead users to stick around to watch more video on the site—and consequently generate even more ad inventory. “It’s definitely a long-term bet,” Bennett said. “The feedback on pre-roll is pretty mixed. We’ve definitely heard from our users that they’d prefer a longer interval between ads. The general thought in the industry is that we need to evolve. This should be less intrusive and more organic.”

Bennett added that MSN can tinker with its new ad model over time based on user response. For now, it’s attempting to encourage more users to stream video overall via the new redesign, which integrates video throughout the site while also enhancing video search. “Our users are always saying to us, ‘We love your content, but help us find more.’ This should help users
discover more of the content instead of just linking to one specific video,” he said.

As part of the redesign, MSN is also melding Soapbox, its user-generated video hub, into MSN Video, rather than maintaining a separate Web destination for such content. The thinking, said Bennett, is to allow users to watch professional and user-generated content via one experience. “Users get less interruptions and have a wider selection of videos to choose from,” he said.