MSN Taking On AOL With Web Premiere Service

Microsoft's MSN service has quietly launched a program that will debut music on the Internet, in a move to compete with AOL Music's "First Listen" and "First View" programming, Billboard Bulletin repo

Microsoft's MSN service has quietly launched a program that will debut music on the Internet, in a move to compete with AOL Music's "First Listen" and "First View" programming, Billboard Bulletin reports. MSN -- in conjunction with technology/distribution partners Pressplay and Windows Media -- just completed an exclusive launch program for the Jennifer Lopez track "Baby I Love You" that generated more than 1 million downloads of the song between Nov. 21 and Dec. 15.

"You might think of this as our debut [in] trying to become a popular place for people to experience new, breaking entertainment," says MSN personal-services and business-division corporate VP Yusuf Mehdi.

The company packaged the Lopez offer with a listening party for her entire Epic album "This Is Me ... Then" and non-exclusive downloads, including the single "Jenny From the Block," which is No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Mehdi acknowledges that while the offer did not generate the same level of response that an AOL First Listen typically does, it is the start of MSN building a more ambitious program. AOL's program has generated headlines in recent months for drawing audiences that can number in the millions when it unveils a new track or video. A host of other online players has moved to roll out similar initiatives in response.

The MSN offer also served as a promotion platform for Pressplay, as those downloading "Baby I Love You" had to link to a special Pressplay-branded page. The latter service also offered advance access to the Lopez track "Still."