Microsoft unveils original Web content


Microsoft sent a direct message to the ad buying community on Thursday -- everyone's software company is a hit-making digital media leader.

The company unveiled an ambitious slate of original programming created for its multiple Web platforms, including the MSN portal, and Xbox Live before a group of agency and marketing executives at its first ever Digital Showcase held at the Director's Guild Theater in New York.

During the event, executives emphasized the company's commitment to producing highly targeted, large scale Web series, which facilitate integrated advertising opportunities.

Among the new series to come out of MSN's Branded Entertainment group are "In Need Of Repair," a male-aimed home improvement series featuring a pair of sophomoric, mostly inept hosts; and "The Men's Room," an instructional fashion series geared for 20-something men who are averse to reading magazines such as GQ and Details.

Also in the works are "Seven Secrets About...," a light look at the secrets of pop culture icons such as Justin Timberlake; "50 Greatest," a spoof of the multiple pop culture list shows common to VH1 and other cable networks; and "What on Earth is Going On?," a channel/series aimed at raising social consciousness.

Gayle Troberman, head of branded entertainment at MSN cited existing MSN shows such as the comedy parenting series "In the Motherhood" -- which features scripts that have been inspired by stories submitted by users along with branded entertainment elements by Suave and Sprint -- as examples of the company's prowess in online video.

"I want to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt...that we produce the biggest hits on the Web." Troberman joked that such hits come from a "software company... that exists in that media mecca that is Redmond, [Washington].


Shows that deliver large scale audiences of niches like moms are "what we're really good at. I don't think we talk about it enough," she added.

In presenting these new series, Troberman stressed that they should be considered working concepts and thus malleable, depending on a potential advertisers needs. For example, "In Need of Repair" could be tweaked to be less humorous and more service oriented, if needed.

Beyond its core portal, Microsoft presented several new show concepts for its news sibling, including Tom Brokaw's "Turning Points," an eight-episode show planned for this fall, which will revisit NBC News' coverage of past presidential elections. 

In addition, the breaking news-heavy site is adding more regularly scheduled lighter series, including "ZeitGeist" -- a show that will amass clips of the less important news items making headlines (hosted by Willie Geist a regular on MSNBC's Morning Joe).

Also coming down the pike is "The Scoop," a twice a week celeb-centric series hosted by Courtney Hazlett, who currently pens a similar column for

The news site's officials also laid out more details for "The World Is Flat," an offshoot of the book authored by New York Times reporter Thomas Friedman, which examines the impact of globalization.

A companion mini-site will feature video interviews with luminaries such as Steven Spielberg as well as contributions from average readers.

Lastly, Microsoft revealed plans to make Xbox Live, the online hub for Web connected users of its popular Xbox 360 console, a destination for original entertainment geared for 18-34 year old males. Among the shows in the works are the horror/comedy themed "Scary Funny" and the pop culture/entertainment junkie-aimed news magazine "Culture Smash."

The final concept presented Thursday drew approving laughs from the crowd at the Directors Guild Theater for its pitch-perfect demographic sensibility. The reality series "Xtwins" will feature a pair of long-legged, attractive twin sisters who try their hands at games such as Guitar Hero and Halo 3.