Microsoft Unveils Slate of Original Web Programming

NEW YORK Microsoft sent a direct message to the ad buying community on Thursday: The software titan is also a hit-making digital media leader.

The company unveiled an ambitious slate of original programming created for its multiple Web platforms, including the MSN portal, and Xbox Live before a group of agency and marketing executives at its first Digital Showcase at the Director’s Guild Theater in New York. During the event, executives emphasized the company’s commitment to producing highly targeted, large-scale Web series that facilitate integrated advertising opportunities.

Among the new series to come out of MSN’s Branded Entertainment group are In Need of Repair, a male-aimed home improvement show featuring a pair of sophomoric, mostly inept hosts; and The Men’s Room, an instructional fashion series geared for 20-something men who are averse to reading magazines such as GQ and Details. Also in the works are Seven Secrets About…, a light look at the secrets of pop culture icons such as Justin Timberlake; 50 Greatest, a spoof of the multiple pop-culture list shows common to cable networks; and What on Earth Is Going On?, a channel/series aimed at raising social consciousness.

Gayle Troberman, head of branded entertainment at MSN, cited existing MSN shows such as the comedy parenting series In the Motherhood — which features scripts inspired by stories submitted by users, along with branded entertainment elements from Suave and Sprint — as examples of the company’s prowess in online video. “I want to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt…that we produce the biggest hits on the Web,” she said.

Troberman joked that such hits come from a “software company… that exists in that media mecca that is Redmond, [Washington].”

Shows that deliver large-scale audiences of niches like moms are “what we’re really good at. I don’t think we talk about it enough,” she added.

In presenting these new shows, Troberman stressed that they should be considered working concepts and thus malleable, depending on a potential advertiser’s needs. For example, In Need of Repair could be tweaked to be less humorous and more service oriented, if needed.

Beyond its core portal, Microsoft presented several concepts for its news sibling, including Tom Brokaw’s Turning Points, an eight-episode show planned for this fall, which will revisit NBC News’ coverage of past presidential elections. In addition, the breaking news-heavy site is adding more regularly scheduled lighter series, including ZeitGeist — a show that will amass clips of the less important news items making headlines (hosted by Willie Geist, a regular on MSNBC’s Morning Joe). Also coming down the pike is The Scoop, a twice weekly celeb-centric series hosted by Courtney Hazlett, who currently pens a similar column for

The news site’s officials also laid out more details for The World Is Flat, an offshoot of the book authored by New York Times reporter Thomas Friedman, which examines the impact of globalization. A companion mini-site will feature video interviews with luminaries such as Steven Spielberg as well as contributions from average readers.

Lastly, Microsoft revealed plans to make Xbox Live, the online hub for Web-connected users of its popular Xbox 360 console, a destination for original entertainment geared for young adult males. Among the shows in the works are the horror/comedy themed Scary Funny and the pop-culture/entertainment junkie-aimed news magazine Culture Smash.

The final concept presented yesterday drew approving laughs from the crowd at the Directors Guild Theater for its pitch-perfect demographic sensibility. The reality series Xtwins will feature a pair of long legged, attractive twin sisters who try their hands at games such as Guitar Hero and Halo 3.