Microsoft is launching a video-on-demand service in the UK, providing web users with 300 hours of free shows including the League of Gentlemen, Peep Show, Shameless and The Young Ones.
MSN Video Player, which will be available as a beta next week, will offer content from the BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, and All3Media. It aims to be the UK's top video-on-demand destination, according to Ashley Highfield, managing director and vice president of consumer and online at Microsoft UK.
"We believe Microsoft has a number of unique selling points to achieve this: we have strong partnerships with leading content providers; established technology; the largest digital advertising sales house in the UK; the ability to roll our service out across other platforms; and most importantly, we've got unparalleled reach to an audience who want free, quality video-on-demand services," said Highfield.
Highfield joined Microsoft last year and was previously CEO of Project Kangaroo, the proposed 3-way video-on-demand joint venture between the BBC, ITV & Channel4 that was halted by the Competition Commisssion. He was also in charge of development of iPlayer, the BBC's on-demand service.
"The hole left by Kangaroo was something that provided a catalyst," Highfield told The Guardian. "To some degree there is a void left by Kangaroo, there is a gap for an aggregator."
Shows won't appear on MSN Video until they're no longer available on broadcasters' own websites. BBC programmes are currently available on iPlayer for seven days after transmission, while Channel 4's 4oD service offers shows for 30 days.
MSN Video Player, which will only be available to UK viewers, will be supported by advertising, Microsoft revealed. Short commercials will precede 30-minute programmes, while programmes of an hour or longer will include a commercial break.