Zune to offer exclusive free video content: Variety

Variety is reporting tonight that Microsoft “has created a shingle that will produce a slate of video programming exclusively for the portable device”, and that the Zune shows will be ad supported and free for download.

Entertainment magazine “Mean” is apparently a partner in the content creation, which is set to begin with a project called “Cinemash”:

The eight-episode series, unspooling in three- to five-minute installments, will feature celebs playing the roles in movies they wish they’d landed.

Variety unveils a number of rumored but not confirmed details, including new Zune players (with increased video capabilities), availability of the new free video content on Zune devices and on PCs with Zune software installed, and a move into Xbox Live and MSN coming also:

That could especially be true when Microsoft unveils players with more advanced video playback capabilities.

Microsoft only began offering video to Zune owners through its Zune Marketplace in June. While the company won’t disclose the number of videos that have been downloaded, the tally has surpassed expectations, encouraging Microsoft to invest in producing its own fare.

“We’re seeing an appetite for video and saw this as an area we wanted to get into,” said Paul Davidson, lead video and original content producer for Zune.

The videos will eventually be distribbed across various platforms.

Microsoft will initially bow its videos on the Zune Marketplace for download to Zune players or for view on traditional computer screens.

But that same programming will move onto Microsoft’s Xbox Live service, as well as MSN’s network of websites over time.

This is the first news we’ve seen of the arrangement, so details are sketchy at this point.  With Zune blurring the lines between hardware, software, and services, we’re planning to take a closer look at Zune here on LiveSide in the coming months.  Here’s one of the videos Mean produced, this one with Sir Ben Kingsley as Minor Threat, enjoy:

Sir Ben Kingsley STOMPS into the shoes of Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye from Mean Magazine on Vimeo.

Update: Here’s the Microsoft press release on Cinemash