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Digital Dealmakers: Rob Bennett

Jun 5, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The player: Rob Bennett, general manager of entertainment and video services for Microsoft’s MSN

The play: MSN Video is one of the Broadband Five, a group of Web sites emerging as the new power center in the world of online video distribution, according to research firm Broadband Directions. MSN Video recently has averaged about 10 million unique visitors per month, making it the second-most-visited video-sharing site, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

The money: MSN Video has been self-supporting since its launch more than two years ago, with blue-chip advertisers like Procter & Gamble featured on the site. “Online video has the highest [advertising cost per thousand viewers] on the MSN network,” Mr. Bennett said.

The pitch: Online video is white-hot. The advertising market for the business should almost double to $640 million from $385 million this year, according to research firm eMarketer. “The blessing and curse of this being the year of video is now our content partners and ad partners and our own viewers are all recognizing that this is something that is here to stay and a great way to consume media, but there are also a lot of smart, hungry competitors,” Mr. Bennett said. He said he wants to capitalize on MSN’s global audience and increase the video consumption of the more than 465 million unique users who spend time on MSN’s global network each month. Late last year MSN added video alerts to MSN Messenger. “You want to be populated throughout the network,” Mr. Bennett said.

On competition: “There is no silver bullet here. You have to keep the pedal down,” Mr. Bennett said.

Video growth: MSN Video culls clips from three sources: content partners, home-video auteurs and producers of original material. To grow its originals business, MSN recently inked a deal with Hollywood producer Reveille to create several online series. Also, MSN Video plans to expand its viral video service, which today is based on licensed content. This summer it will begin letting users post, share, tag and rate their own video, a la YouTube.com.

In the mix: MSN Video draws content from partners such as MSNBC, Fox Sports and Discovery Channel as well as viral video from syndicated services such as iFilm and Stupid Videos.

The backstory: Mr. Bennett joined Microsoft in 1991 and worked on various products before departing in 1998 to work for Internet startup Loudeye.com. He rejoined Microsoft in 2003 to head the MSN Video service, which launched in January 2004.

Who knew? Mr. Bennett, who grew up in Providence, R.I., and has an electrical engineering degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, is married and has a 20-month old daughter. The Seattle resident plays jazz saxophone, and while in college he toured around the world, including stints in Russia and Romania.