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Microsoft schmoozes with Hollywood

In its ongoing effort to strike entertainment and media partnerships, the software giant says its MSN portal will power the Web sites for two popular TV shows produced by NBC.

In its ongoing effort to strike entertainment and media partnerships, Microsoft on Monday said that its MSN portal will power the Web sites for two popular TV shows produced by NBC.

As earlier reported, the deal allows MSN to produce and promote Web sites for the late-night staple "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and the flashy entertainment news show "Access Hollywood." The Access Hollywood site, which has already launched, will feature music videos, movie trailers and entertainment news headlines. The Tonight Show site will not launch until the spring.

Deals such as these are significant for Microsoft. In its ongoing, often quixotic, campaign for Internet dominance, the software giant has set its sights on entering partnerships with content providers such as movie studios, television networks and publications. The partnerships offer content to draw more people to MSN and also give Microsoft an outlet through which to distribute its Web software, such as the Passport online sign-in and payment service.

Separately, Microsoft struck a deal with ContentFilm and Magnolia Pictures to release a full-length movie called "Wendigo," starring Erik Per Sullivan of Fox's "Malcolm in the Middle" sit-com. The film will be screened in March using Microsoft's Windows Media digital audio and video technology.

The software giant on Monday also said that General Electric, Kimberly-Clark, McDonald's, Office Depot, Universal Pictures and Xerox have agreed to advertise on the official Web site for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Microsoft and NBC in July won rights to produce and host the Web site of this month's Olympic games, a duty that includes selling the site's advertising.

The company's partnerships are one way to counter nemesis AOL Time Warner's ownership of content and the largest Internet audience. Microsoft has positioned itself to media companies as a better partner than AOL, the largest media company in the world, because it is not in competetion with them. So far, Microsoft has struck only one major deal with a media company.

Microsoft in September 2001 struck an agreement with Walt Disney's that could be a template for future deals with media companies. In exchange for giving ESPN an exclusive spot on MSN's sports channel, the software giant was given considerable real estate on with links to other MSN services, such as Hotmail, MSN Search and its shopping channel.

In this deal, the Access Hollywood and Tonight Show sites will be promoted on-air during the programs. MSN will also feature links to the sites on its home page.