Hoping to capitalize on the impulse that fuels fantasy baseball players everywhere, Microsoft's MSN is aiming for a hit with a new program called "Fan Club: Reality Baseball." The show lets viewers vote on management decisions for a real professional minor-league baseball team, then watch what happens.
The program, part of the Originals venture announced in May, is expected to debut today with advertising opportunities that include display ads, streaming video availabilities, sponsorship packages and in-content integration. The company didn't divulge the identities of initial advertisers, though it said it had signed some deals. MSN attempted a similar original content initiative in 1996, but eventually ended up cancelling all its programs.
"Fan Club" content will consist largely of short-form video. Background information on the team, the Illinois-based Schaumberg Flyers, will populate the site upon its launch. Along the way, users will be able to select the team roster, determine batting order and choose pitchers. They'll also be able to make decisions on roommate assignments and player trades. Whatever they collectively decide will be implemented, and they'll then be able to watch the results via short-form video and text narrative.
Team members, their families and friends will blog on MSN Spaces as part of the program, a content element which aims to provide viewers a window behind the scenes.
The show is being put together in partnership with production company Live Planet, which ran "Project Greenlight" for HBO and Bravo, and Los Angeles-based interactive agency Schematic.
"This is an incredible opportunity to bring a brand-new form of interactive storytelling to MSN's many millions of users -- a much larger audience than can typically be reached today on TV," said Larry Tanz, CEO of LivePlanet, in a statement.
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Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.