“MSN Originals” Kicks Off With Two Deals: Reveille, Be Jane

MSN is fleshing out its content strategy with the addition of “MSN Originals,” an initiative that includes investment in original content. The first step will be announced later today during the MSN Strategic Account Summit, an annual meeting with advertisers: original content partnerships with Reveille and DIY site Be Jane. The two could not be more diverse, which makes sense given MSN’s broad audience.
— Reveille, creator of NBC shows “The Office” and “The Biggest Loser,” has agreed to give MSN first look on all internet projects during a one-year exclusive. MSN is creating a production fund to develop pilots and original branded entertainment. Successful online shows could move to TV and mobile; Microsoft would have a stake.
— Be Jane will produce an original video/interactive DIY series aimed at women and featuring the “Janes” — co-founders Heidi Baker and Eden Jarrin. The shows will be integrated into MSN Lifestyle, Spaces and Video.
Three prongs: Rob Bennett, GM of entertainment and video services, told me Tuesday that MSN Originals has been on the works for months. It’s part of a three-pronged content approach; the other two prongs are traditional licensed/partner content and user-generated. Bennett said “MSN Originals” isn’t limited to video or entertainment. “It’s a huge opportunity and the broader context around it is there’s going to be a lot of different type of content, different shows.”
User gen: MSN has been working on the last for some time now; I first heard of the project, called Warhol (as in 15 minutes of fame) early this year. No details yet but it, too, will be incorporated in multiple parts of MSN, including Spaces. Advertisers could see a demo Wednesday of MSN’s user-gen video platform. Bennett understands the impatience as people wait for an MSN user-gen solution. “We want to get it out there as quickly as possible,” he said, adding that it was on schedule.
MSN’s look: MSN is going through its own home improvement project of sorts, fixing up different parts of the site in terms of look and feel. A new version of the TV home page launched unannounced last month. for instance. I asked if we were seeing an overhaul of the site. Not entireley, he said, but some of the content changes might “dictate a difference in the the way the site looks. … We want to drive a more cohesive network experience.” They’re working on ways to unify the way content is categorized and on ways to make the portal experience more seamless.
Making the case: John Nicol, GM of MSN.com, willl lay the content strategy out for summit attendees Wednesday. No matter what kind of cool content MSN Originals comes up with, it will be for nought if advertisers and agencies don’t buy in — literally and figuratively.
Update: NYT: The Reveille pact calls for 10 web pilots; four have been okayed including a short-form comedy. Tom Arnold is being wooed as a pilot for a commuter airline. (Low-budget “Wings”?) “Under The Influence” matches musicans with their inspiration a la CMT’s “Crossroads” and adds interactive elements. Also, a reminder that MSN tried a variation on the online show theme a decade ago — and failed.