MSN Video, Microsoft's free online video service, first launched in early 2004. Although MSN's ad sales folks tell me that the service has been popular among advertisers--MSN claims that advertisers have actually been clamoring for more inventory than MSN's been able to provide--the service missed the boat when it came to the video-posting and sharing revolution, allowing YouTube to garner a huge lead. It's also missed out on some big events, notably last summer's Live8 concerts, which were Webcast by AOL. MTV did such a poor job with the TV broadcast, overloading the show with commercials and cutting many sets early, that the Webcast turned out to be a much better way to see and hear the shows.
Microsoft's sudden interest in the music market, best evidenced by Zune, seems to have percolated throughout the company: over the last few months, MSN Video's been adding more and more live concerts through its MSN Music in Concert series, with acts as diverse as Elton John, Nas, and Kings of Leon. Now, they may have scored a real coup: the exclusive online broadcast of the Live Earth concerts, which are taking place tomorrow (07/07/07) and are meant to raise awareness of global warming.
This will be a real make or break test for the service. In the past, I've personally had a lot of technical trouble with MSN Video--for instance, it hasn't always detected my browser correctly, asking me to download a version that I already have. But recently the service switched to Flash, like YouTube and MySpace, which seems to work much better than the embedded Windows Media Player they used to use. This will probably also be the most traffic MSN Video's ever gotten, and a good test of Microsoft's expanded online infrastructure.
Personally, I found the Live8 lineup to be much more interesting. This set of shows seems skewed toward fluffy contemporary pop acts with no chance of lasting relevance. But there are a few giants in there, and no doubt people will be tuning in by the millions.