Microsoft will launch its MSN Video player tomorrow, nearly seven months after having been announced and launched in the UK as a beta service.
More than 1000 hours of video content will be available at launch, a significant improvement on the 300 or so hours of free-to-view TV shows that populated the website back in August 2009.
MSN Video player differs from the rest of the VoD landscape because it is not a catch up service like BBC's iPlayer but more of a long tail service that allows users to watch full series of their favourite TV shows peppered with 30-seconds preroll and postroll adverts.
Under the guidance of Ashley Highfield, Microsoft UK's managing director of consumer and online, the same person who spearheaded the development of BBC's free on demand platform, MSN Video Player has managed to sign some significant deals with big production houses.
These include Shed Media, RDF Media, Endemol, Raw Cut and Digital Rights Group; the two initial launch partners back in August 2009 included only BBC Worldwide and All3Media.
We have had a quick look at the service and found out that there were still some rough edges. For example, we couldn't access the "legal" page, the FAQ page link is dead and the Sci Fi section of the programme guide doesn't appear to be covered by the page's CSS.
As expected, there are no (apparent) options to download any of the streaming videos and there's no way of preventing a younger audience of viewing some mature content (like the Banzai series).
Back in August, we said that the quality of service was poor when it came to distributing the content and to the (technical) quality of the content. Hulu was expected to be a major player by end 2009 but the deal never actually took place and the US giant has yet to land here.