MSN to increase free content on Websites

Microsoft Network, the Microsoft-owned online service provider, is downplaying reports of major cutbacks in its subscription entertainment services, and a strategic move away from TV programming-style content available inside its “subscription wall”.

Judie Gibbons, director of MSN UK, confirms that the company will move more of its most successful content, currently available only to subscribers, onto MSN’s main US and UK homepages.

“We want MSN.co.uk to be a top five Website in terms of traffic [in the UK], and we will be trying to drive reach and frequency of use on that site,” she says. “There are emerging businesses in advertising and electronic commerce which can be leveraged from operating a popular Website. To take full advantage of this, we want more of our services in front of lots of eyeballs.”

But she insists MSN is continuing to invest in additional content which will only be available “behind the subscription wall” to MSN subscribers. MSN now claims 130,000 paying subscribers – up from 40,000 at the time of last autumn’s relaunch.

And she denies reports that MSN plans to scrap its controversial policy of offering TV programming-style content on its service in the face of disappointing audience figures in the US.

Some UK industry sources remain unimpressed with the speed with which MSN has built up UK-specific “programme” content. So far, the company has developed six regularly updated “shows” for the UK market.

But the policy, pioneered by MSN’s executive producer Bob Bejan, will continue to be developed in both the US and UK markets, says Gibbons.

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