In an interesting development, Microsoft is to launch a pilot TV streaming website in the UK. It's an extension of current MSN Video functionality, but will include much longer content.
It'll be launching with 350 hours of programs, mostly from BBC Worldwide and All 3 Media. That means it'll have the full series of Hustle, Shameless, Peep Show and the Young Ones, as well as other content from a variety of genres. More content is on the way too - "We'd like to be able to add movies", Microsoft told us.
It'll be ad-supported, and free to the end user for that reason. Users will have to sit through a 30 second pre-roll before they get to see their content, and then there'll be normal ad breaks. We pressed Microsoft on whether that'd be UK-style or US-style ad breaks, and we were reassured that it'd be British-style ones every 15 minutes or so.
There'll be a certain amount of editorial, but the development is notable for not including UGC content. Microsoft recently shuttered its SoapBox video upload service due to competition from YouTube, however it said at the time: "We also plan to add functionality into MSN Video to easily enable bloggers and citizen journalists to upload content to share with our MSN users".That hasn't materialised yet.
Like the iPlayer, the service will run in the browser and employ a combination of Flash and WMV technology - no Silverlight here. It's cross-platform - it should work on Linux and Macs, but it doesn't yet have a mobile or Xbox variant. "There's no immediate plans for that", Microsoft told us.
Microsoft says it picked the UK to pilot the service in because the British market is "the most advanced video audience in the world", both in terms of consumers watching it, and producers being willing to license their content to the Web. The company praised the BBC for accomplishing that, saying "the iPlayer changed the market completely".
The streaming site isn't live yet, but should be going online in the next week or so. When it does, we'll make sure you're the first to know.