Software giant Microsoft and US telecoms firm Qwest Communications have unveiled a new partnership, whereby MSN Internet Access will be offered via Qwest’s broadband network of over twelve million households in fourteen states.

Microsoft-owned MSN will purchase broadband capacity, billing and connection services, dial ports and digital subscriber lines from its new partner. In return, Qwest will pay out over $100m in the next five years to advertise and cross-market its DSL operation and small-business services on MSN, as well as helping to market the portal to its customers. Around 500,000 subscribers will receive MSN Internet Access under the scheme when the alliance comes into force over the summer.

Commented Qwest ceo Joe Nacchio: “We believe that by combining our dial-up and DSL customer base with MSN, we'll bring a richer variety of services and content.” Meanwhile, his counterpart at Microsoft Steve Ballmer stressed that the alliance would help the company focus on its core business – software and content.

Although the marketing element of the agreement reflects other recent tie-ins between advertisers and media companies (including several involving AOL Time Warner), MSN vice-president Yusef Mehdi played down the similarities: “In some ways it's bigger and more sophisticated than the AOL Time Warner [deals]. The difference is that AOL is doing cross-media sales in traditional media, whereas ours is exclusively online.”

Mehdi continued by hyping the services MSN could offer advertisers: “We’re selling the best digital experience on the web, the largest global brand for online services, and we think we [are starting] to deliver the elements that do allow you to deliver true brand advertising on the web.”

New forms of online ads, featuring improved video and sound footage, could “essentially feel like content modules within the page, more integrated with content. Qwest will essentially be able to have a series of headlines that scroll and can be updated.”

News source: Advertising Age - Daily Deadline