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Microsoft Previews Digital Programming Slate For Advertisers

This story was written by David Kaplan.

As the major broadcast networks prepare their scaled back TV upfront presentations for this spring, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) held its first programming preview for advertisers in New York on Thursday. Mediaweek has the rundown on Microsoft's Digital Showcase, which was meant to signal the software maker's increased focus on creating original, ad-supported programming across its MSN portal, and Xbox Live. Microsoft also sought to emphasize the high level of targeting involved in the shows, with programming aimed mostly at males.

- Malleable: Microsoft's programming preview looks like any other upfront presentation, but there was at least one important difference. The shows that broadcasters highlight to advertisers at their upfront events are pretty much set in stone. Microsoft told advertisers directly that they would be willing to work with them on "tweaking" the shows depending on their needs. As an example, Gayle Troberman, MSN's head of branded entertainment, said that its comedic home improvement show In Need of Repair could tone down the humor and be made to seem more "service oriented." Some details about the shows after the jump.

-- In addition to Repair, MSN's Branded Entertainment group is producing another show for younger men called The Men's Room, a how-to fashion series for those who probably shun magazines like GQ and Details. There's also two shows with a music bent: Seven Secrets About, which humorously profiles the hidden sides of pop stars like Justin Timberlake; and 50 Greatest, a parody of the "list of..." shows that run on VH1 and other cable networks. And, to show off MSN's serious side, What on Earth is Going On?, a channel/series focused on issues like the environment. Aside from the preview's heavy concentration on 18-34 male demo, Troberman said MSN's over-arching goal is to create shows that can attract large scale niche audiences. A good example of other niche targets is the currently running parenting show Motherhood.

-- For Xbox Live, the online home for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, Microsoft is developing a show that combines horror and comedy called Scary Funny and a pop culture news magazine Culture Smash. And this fall, will start running an eight-part series Tom Brokaw's Turning Points, a look back at past presidential races. Other news shows currently in the works include ZeitGeist, which collects an assortment of less high-profile news, and a celebrity gossip show, The Scoop.

By David Kaplan

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