It’s a Summer of Content for MSN.com

It’s a cliche that bears repeating: if at first you don’t succeed, just keep on trying. And it just happens to be true for a lot of things.

Especially if you’re the content and online experience manager for the Microsoft Network (a.k.a. MSN.com) over at a certain Redmond, WA-based tech company.

Back in the dot-com heyday, the online services arm over at the Vole was swinging programs such as “415 Madison” and “Mungo Park” left and right to create a new kind of online destination to compete with the closed-network model of what was then called America Online, only to fall flat on the proverbial pavement and call a retreat from such initiatives.

And yet, MSN seems to have retained some of the spirit of that era, as if it never completely killed off its content business. In fact, a full decade after that well-documented web programming debacle, MSN Originals is back for more. And this time, it’s bringing a baseball team, rocker Tommy Lee, and even the producer of “The Biggest Loser” to the table. Oh, and the company behind the online women’s home improvement community BeJane is also involved. And it all starts this summer.

It’s evident that MSN intends to work more with the big guns on content initiatives this time. Lasst time, MSN went entirely on it’s own, with a lot of unknowns, and wound up with more misses than hits. The fact that dial-up connections were much more common back then didn’t help matters, either. But will it be enough to revitalize the portal’s nearly-dead, long-suffering, heavilly-damaged and long-in-the-tooth original content business that has nearly faded away except for such limited-run minisites such as the “MSN/Lexus Luxury Living” initiative or the NewBalance sponsored “Fit in the City?”

If last year’s success handling streams for the nearly-written off but saved by the Net first season of Mark Burnett’s “Rock Star” reality series with INXS looking for a permanent replacement for it’s long-dead lead singer is any indication, then so is Reville Prodictions, which in addition to contributing to the success of “Loser” also sucessfully brought the infectious homor of “The Office” to the American masses with the inspiration of the British original – and that, like “Rock Star” and MSN’s web programming business itself – was equally close to being written off at one point.

Speaking of which, “Rock Star” is back on both MSN and CBS, with a new project featuring Motley Crue veteran Tommy Lee – a rock supergroup to be called “Supernova.” And Reville is producing an initial ten webshows for the MSN Originals relaunch, with first-denial rights going to MSN much like Warner Brothers, a component of Time Warner, holds with corporate sibling AOL. And ironically, AOL is game for a brand new original programming race with the Vole, although third-place portal competitor Yahoo, which has also toyed with original programming, is not so keen on whether Hollywood has a place in its content initiatives and has scaled back its plans in the space in accordance with that belief, potentially leaving itself at a disadvantage in proportion to the attention MSN and AOL are now giving Hollywood in the web programming space.

But Reville’s deal will take a temporary backseat to LivePlanet, which has also announced plans to contribute to MSN Originals, starting with a webshow in which ordinary Netizens can vote on decisions related to the management of a minor-league baseball team – think fantasy baseball on steroids – that is set to be among the first new original series with such caliber out outside of TV show microsites such as “Rock Star: Supernova” to premier on MSN in a decade. And BeJane isn’t too far behind in it’s work with MSN – the all-girl home improvement destination has a few original programs of its own in store for MSN’s lifestyle channel, to be hosted by the site’s founding base double-equivalent of Tim Allen’s Tool Girl, known on the site as the “Janes.”

Which may be clear indication that the time is finally right for MSN to relaunch and reinvigorate it’s web programming business once more. Or not, if the demons of the past give the Vole the once over all over again. Hovever, Microsoft’s web services division finally has the right support to make it happen this time, and with more people on broadband (as opposed to dial-up which was an unwittingly-sharp thorn in the Vole’s side the last go-’round) along with the online advertising to fully support such a model, MSN’s time for original content may finally be right.

And if it is, you can definitely expect Hollywood to be nicer this time around.

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