Microsoft plugs Silverlight

Launches high-def video player

Microsoft on Wednesday launched its Silverlight video player with a host of partners already in place. Included is CBS, which will use the technology on a site dedicated to the Emmy Awards broadcast Sept. 16.

The free downloadable plug-in, which can present videos in high definition on a computer screen, was announced in April at the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas. Since then, Microsoft has had several trial runs and previews as it has prepared to fully launch the new video format, which is compatible with Macs and PCs.

In connection with the Emmys, Silverlight will be used on a microsite hosted on "Entertainment Tonight's" Web site beginning Wednesday. Users will be able to watch interviews, red-carpet coverage, make video mash-ups and stream the "ET" afterparty.

"The technology is incredible," said Linda Bell Blue, executive producer of "ET." "We're always looking for ways to move our content forward."

"ET" will be using Silverlight in the coming months for more microsites, including one for holiday movies, its year-end review and other award shows.

In addition to the CBS partnership, Microsoft's MSN is using Silverlight in its Election Central offering, as will HSN and World Wrestling Entertainment.

Major League Baseball also has been using Silverlight since July for highlights on its site and is working toward using it to broadcast live games on MLB.TV.

"Ours is a strategy of letting content drive adoption," said Sean Alexander, director of Silverlight at Microsoft. also will be switching over to Silverlight technology.

In addition to the high-quality video and the mash-up feature, the player can be customized for different types of advertisements, including a ticker and an overlay on the bottom third of a screen, similar to YouTube's recently announced ad model. Silverlight also is compatible with Windows Media players, meaning that millions of hours of content can be switched over to Silverlight once the player is downloaded.

One downside, though, could be the fact that the player has to be downloaded. Many computers come installed with Windows Media Player, and sites like YouTube, which use Adobe Flash technology, only require that a user log on to the page with a computer purchased in the past few years.

"We think the benefits of the technology will outlay the 10-second download," Alexander said. "From that perspective, that's a very low bar."