Microsoft crashes VoD party with iPlayer rival

Microsoft has made a shameless late grab for a piece of the Video on Demand (VoD) pie with the launch of its own MSN Video Player service.

The announcement of the full public launch was supposed to be for tomorrow so details are sketchy, but the Video Player has been been in test phase since last summer, and will compete in a market that already has the iPlayer, SeeSaw and 4oD available to VoD watchers.

The service looks to be similar, but not quite as good as SeeSaw, according to the Guardian. SeeSaw will have 3,000 hours of TV programmes on the website, while Microsoft will only have 1,000. Microsoft’s content is mainly pooled from BBC Worldwide and deals struck with producers.

It will also follow the example set by SeeSaw and 4oD that allows viewers to watch full series of shows after airing, rather than the iPlayer where viewers only have a few days to catch up. The service will be free, but advertisements before, during and after programmes will be the price.

However, Microsoft have definitively confirmed that it will make programmes and films available in high definition using its Silverlight technology, and will use it to bring together its short-form video service MSN player.

What could be the difference in a crowded market is the experience and nous of Ashley Highfield, Microsoft UK’s managing director of consumer and online, who was the chief executive of the failed VoD venture Project Kangaroo as well as the iPlayer launch.

The Times quoted Highfield claiming the Microsoft product would be superior to the iPlayer (which of course he would say, even though it’s his baby).

“Not all video players are equal,” he says. “Our average viewer watches for 25 minutes, significantly higher than other online services. It shows we’re doing more than slapping on any programme for people to watch.”