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MSN Enters User-Generated Video Space With Soapbox

Sep 18, 2006  •  Post A Comment

MSN Video late Monday unveiled the beta version of its long-awaited entry into the user-generated video space: its Soapbox on MSN Video service.

The offering competes with existing user-generated video services from YouTube, Google Video, MySpace and others.

The service contains many of the familiar features of user-generated video sites, such as the ability to e-mail the video, embed it in a blog and see the number of views for a video. It’s supported on Windows and Mac computers and on both Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers, Mr. Bennett said.

The service lets users track videos by most viewed, most commented on and most recent and to browse by categories, such as animals or music. All of those features are accessible while the video plays.

“One of the core principles we have is always be watching video,” said Rob Bennett, general manager of entertainment and video services for MSN.

Soapbox will include a mix of ad opportunities, such as pre-roll ads before some videos. MSN also will incorporate Soapbox into the MSN network by including the top five videos on the ad-supported MSN Video home page, for instance.

MSN is one of the more popular video-sharing sites, driving traffic with its news clips and viral videos from partners such as StupidVideos. MSN Video drew a unique audience of 11.9 visitors in August, up from 9.2 million in July. That put MSN fourth behind YouTube with its hefty 34 million uniques that month, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

MSN Video has built its existing ad-supported business with licensed content from Fox, MSNBC, Showtime and others. “Soapbox is the third leg of our content strategy,” Mr. Bennett said. The beta should last about six months.

Media buyers aren’t worried that MSN is late to the game because many advertisers haven’t yet formulated online video strategies. “MSN has rarely been first to a party,” said T.S. Kelly, VP and director of research and insight for Media Contacts, the interactive arm of MPG. “Once there, however, they do make quite a bit of noise.”

MSN Video will rely on the reach of its network and other services to spread the word on Soapbox. MSN said more than 465 million people access MSN’s network of sites and services each month. Also, MSN’s blogging service MSN Live Spaces counts 65 million blogs, 2 billion pages viewed each month and 120 million users worldwide.

The new service will be accessible on Soapbox.msn.com by invitation only. Those interested in participating in the beta can sign up for the waiting list now at the Web site. Access to the beta will expand over time as existing beta testers are allowed to invite a limited number of friends.