The agreement will plaster advertisements for the MSN Internet Access service throughout Broadcast.com's site. In return, MSN Internet Access will provide multicast Web streaming technology when its users access Broadcast.com's media content.
With the agreement, MSN Internet Access hopes to attract new users by offering more compelling technology--a strategy that Microsoft will continue to employ in its ongoing effort to boost its Web presence, according to Will Diefenbach, group product manager for MSN Internet Access.
Microsoft is trying to increase its MSN.com Web portal's traffic, currently ranked third behind AOL.com and Yahoo, according to Media Metrix. Microsoft also recently realigned its management structure by appointing software veterans Brad Chase and Jon DeVaan to head its Consumer and Commerce Group, formerly the Interactive Media Group headed by Pete Higgins.
Backbone provider UUNet will power the multicast technology, which sends data to thousands of users at a time at a faster rate than that delivered by single-stream technology. The faster rate also makes the end-user experience smoother, according to Microsoft.
MSN's multicasting technology will support both RealPlayer and Microsoft's Windows Media Player, according to Diefenbach.
MSN Internet Access has gone through considerable changes. It was born out of what once was "MSN," Microsoft's proprietary, subscription-based online service. But with sagging subscription growth, MSN became splintered into an Internet access service arm and the MSN portal. The latter was Microsoft's effort to move much of its content out from behind its firewall and onto the Web.
Now the company is banking hard on the MSN portal to be the cornerstone of its Web content strategy, leaving MSN Internet Access solely in the subscription game. While Diefenbach would not release any numbers, he said the service ranks above AT&T WorldNet in subscribers, making it the second-largest provider behind AOL.
Diefenbach added that Microsoft is planning to release a new version of MSN Internet Access later this year that will give the service new client software and a new appearance. The service uses MSN Onstage as its default home page but soon will switch to a modified version of MSN.com.
"We will have a different site that provides the same functionality as the MSN.com home page that's available only to Internet access members," he said.