MSN Video: Precision, But No Passion


Excitement isn’t a word that comes to mind when you think of Microsoft (MSFT), and the new version of MSN Video probably won’t change that, because while technically, Microsoft did a good job, there’s no passion. Online video is exciting. It’s amazing that we can watch almost anything at anytime. I just wish the Redmond giant was as enthusiastic about it as I am. Apparently not. I took the new site for a test drive, and was, well, underwhelmed.

Layout: The new look has a split-screen approach — video playback on the right-hand side, search and additional content on the left — the idea being that you can watch video and search simultaneously. This is good for a multi-tasking generation. But while the layout is clean and thankfully uncluttered, the standard square thumbnails lined up in neat columns gives the page a lackluster, tiled effect.


Advertisements: As reported here earlier, MSN is shifting to a time-based approach to ad serving. So instead of seeing a 30-second pre-roll after every clip you watch, you now get one every three minutes. Which is still a lot, but I’m a little more forgiving than the average viewer, so I didn’t mind. Serving video ain’t cheap, and someone’s got to pay the bills.

If only MSN were more creative! (You’ve got loads of money; spend some of it!) Pre-rolls, whiled loved by advertisers, aren’t the only solution. Plus with every pre-roll, an accompanying ad from the same brand flies out from the side of the player, obscuring the other available content.


Content: I was surprised by how stale the content was. The “Editor’s Picks” in the movies category prominently featured a clip of Borat giving an interview (added 10 months ago), and The Santa Clause 3 (added 11 months ago). Additionally, some channels listed (HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network) in the navigation didn’t have any content in them whatsoever. To have them listed as partners at launch and have nothing there is just sloppy.

Features: The video player offers standard features such as creating playlists and sharing via email. But it doesn’t offer true embeds, only a fake embed that’s basically a glorified link with a picture. Lame. Following is exactly how the “embed” code appears. New Hope for Sallie Mae?
New Hope for Sallie Mae?

The most annoying “feature” and one that ruined the whole experience for me was the autoplay, where a new video automatically plays after you finish watching one. MSN, can you give me a sec to figure out what I want to watch before you tell me? I made the mistake of choosing a news clip about a two-headed turtle. I was subsequently served the following video freakshow parade:

Two-headed turtle –> Two-headed cow from Countdown with Keith Olbermann –> Same two-headed cow from a local TV news station –> Another two-headed turtle –> a comedy bit about Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. At least the relevance is working.

Search: The search functionality works fine, offering up results from MSN Video, Soapbox (MSN’s user-generated video content site), and from the web. There were no blatant issues with relevance that I found, though when I searched for “Britney Spears” “fire” and “dogs” the “web” results all pointed to news stations; none led to other video-sharing sites.

I did contact MSN’s PR firm while writing this post to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, but my call wasn’t returned. What I’d love to hear back is that the people who built MSN Video are excited about what they do and that they promise to infuse some of that energy into the next release.


Liz Gannes

I don’t have that much of a preference, but if video is too little and shoved all the way to the right side, it can look like an ad.


Well i assume this works for PCs only, because the app has been loading forever on my Mac Pro.

I personally hate ads that interfere with the content. Or players that lock you out for selecting what video will play next when a ad is playing. Not exactly the best user experience.

Just out of curiosity, what do you guys refer, video n the left or right of the playlist navigation? I’ve been in one of those discussions when I worked on Toonami Jetstream and CN Video and there were mixed comments.

Om Malik


it be nice if you actually used your real name and not hide. your feedback is valuable and we want to be able to know “the person” who is unhappy with us.

because we are saying it the way we see it. We like some features – search and relevance – but not the layout.

You can choose to disagree – and we respect that. After all, what is the point of a conversation where we all agree.

perhaps, it would be nice if you went and read old posts where we took Apple and Google to task.


Oh wait, if such minor goofups were done by Google and Apple whom Om worships .. I can imagine Om writing “we are sure these are but minor oversights but the whole idea is so forward thinking, Google amazes me, Apple makes me worship them”. F*ck!

Om, about time you became unbiased or else you’d lose many many readers of your blogs. DONT like MSFT if you wish to, but dont write biased pieces and influence your team to do so!

Ah! Its soooo f*cking irritating this fanboyism!


All but stinks deep of fanboyism! You gotta point out whats not there, but fail to atleast acknowledge once the extensively categorized content that IS available?

You mention dated editorial picks but right there are trailers of movies currently playing that are recent — no f*cking mention.

It is indeed heartening to see your biased fanboy-stricken team get blown right and left by folks, check out responses on anti-Halo3 piece by Wagner. I bet if you had traffic like that for Newteevee, you’d see similar blasting of your f*cking biased writing.

Suck Apple’s and Google’s *****, smell their farts if you please but spare us the biased postings, please?

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