MSN to Sponsor, Stream NoLa Jazz Fest

Microsoft’s MSN is expected to announce today that it will sponsor the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival later this month and stream content from the venerable music event. The company beat out other media entities seeking the exclusive partnership.

“There’s definitely a heated competition among the portals to win that exclusivity,” said Rob Bennett, GM of entertainment and video at MSN. “MSN was able to show it could build the best experience around the jazz festival brand.”

The festival takes place the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May. Since the early 1970s, the festival has acted to “promote, preserve, perpetuate and encourage the music, arts, culture and heritage indigenous to the New Orleans area,” according to the festival’s Web site. This year’s schedule includes musical performances from Fats Domino, Dave Mathews Band, Jimmy Buffett, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Ani DiFranco.

Bennett said many of the festival’s performances would be available on MSN.

The portal is eager to partner with musical performers and event producers to bring live content to its site. MSN recently sponsored Marley Fest. It also recently brokered a deal to carry content for the second season of the Mark Burnett reality series Rock Star.

As part of the Jazz Fest partnership, MSN said it plans to donate funds to recovery efforts in New Orleans.

The company’s presence at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is one of many recent efforts to become an emblem of altruism in the area affected by last year’s devastating hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Yahoo Search and Yahoo Small Business recently partnered with Bell South to host a seminar for local small businesses in the area.

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