MSN Ready To Acquire ‘The Long Tail Of TV’

When MSN UK announced its ambitions to be a TV catch-up portal this spring, it just looked like Microsoft’s new consumer-and-online Ashley Highfield was having a hard time letting go of iPlayer and Kangaroo.

Deals to show All3Media and BBCWW shows (Shameless, Peep Show, League of Gentleman) weren’t exactly going to set the world alight by themselves – and does “MSN Video Player” sound familiar, iPlayer fans?

But now MSN is ready to go large, signing a deal with independent TV producers’ umbrella body Pact that paves the way for it to acquire lots more shows from prodcos across the industry…

It’s signed a “VOD acquisition agreement”, “designed to make it easier for producers to reach MSN and Windows Live audiences”. Pact CEO John McVay says it “removes many of the barriers that previously existed for producers” to get their shows on MSN.

Pact tells paidContent:UK: “It saves a lot of legal fees which the smaller indies may not be able to afford, in terms of contracts. Also, MSN will pay an advance fee, which will allow producers to pay for their content to be cleared to be played out online. The template covers terms of payment, release and renewal dates and definitions. It will be up to producers and MSN to agree a rate card price for their content acquisition.”

There’s no announcement of new content here, but it does auger the addition to MSN and Windows Live of lots more shows soon.

If this all sounds familiar, that’s because it was Highfield who, whilst the BBC’s future media and technology director, agreed with Pact members the pioneering terms of trade that allowed iPlayer to show independently-produced TV shows as VOD during a public-service catch-up window, while leaving the producers free to exploit their rights commercially thereafter.

Can Highfield do it again for MSN? Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) still has the problem that it’s far from alone in the current UK VOD arm’s race…

SeeSaw, the project Highfield once led as Project Kangaroo, would be a well-placed leader if it can win any content.
Hulu is still trying to pick up UK content, offering equity in return for exclusivity.
YouTube, now tooled up for long-form, is tempting broadcasters with the ability to sell their own ads, and has secured C4 non-exclusively.
BBC is still offering to share iPlayer to all comers and take the whole thing on to TV through Canvas.
Blinkbox is also ramping up.

But the Pact agreement will help.

NMA seemingly inadvertently published the press release Wednesday morning, before removing it until Pact’s embargo lifted.

In a marker of Highfield’s intentions, NMA did quote him from a separate event as saying: “We