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Microsoft schmoozes with Hollywood

In its ongoing effort to strike entertainment and media partnerships, Microsoft's 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's MSN portal will power the Web sites for two popular TV shows produced by NBC, according to sources familiar with the deal.

The deal, expected to be announced Monday, will allow MSN to produce and promote Web sites for the popular "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, the sources said.

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 striking partnerships with content providers, such as movie studios, television networks and publications. The partnerships offer content to draw more people to MSN, and offer an outlet to distribute its Web software, such as its Passport online sign-in and payment service.

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

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

Microsoft and NBC declined to comment on the agreement.