Microsoft is upping the ante as it prepares for the launch of its MSN Video player under the supervision of former BBC man and father of Project Kangaroo, Ashley Highfield.
The latter left the Corporation to become the managing director of Microsoft’s UK Consumer and Online division. Highfield is credited with making BBC's iPlayer such a success, something it is set to replicate with Microsoft in the UK and possibly elsewhere.
MSN Video Player will be funded by advertising; short adverts will precede 30 minutes programmes while longer ones will be interrupted by a TV commercial break.
The service will be launched as a pilot for a UK audience only for the next six months and will work as an extension to the current MSN video player.
It will initially have 350 hours of programs thanks to a partnership with BBC Worldwide and All 3 media with other candidates like ITV and Channel 4 potentially coming on later.
Microsoft has just closed its user generated video content website Soapbox which failed to challenge Google's Youtube dominance and it seems that the software giant is focusing more on quality broadcast programmes over quantity.
Unlike the first iteration of the BBC iPlayer which worked only on Microsoft Windows, the new service will be compatible with Linux and Macs thanks to a combination of Flash and WMV formats.
No Silverlight for the time being and a mobile/Xbox version should not be discounted. Furthermore - and it is worth noting - the programmes will be available without DRM protection which means that they could potentially find their way to P2P networks.
Expect the new service to go live next week with some great content like Peep Show, Shameless, Hustle and League of Gentlemen as well as classic shows such as The Young Ones. Basically Microsoft is doing what Kangaroo and Hulu were/are supposed to do.