MSN TV, formerly known as WebTV, was a service developed by Microsoft that allowed users to access the internet, email, and other online content via their televisions. Launched in 1996, it utilized a set-top box and a wireless keyboard to provide an internet-connected experience on a TV screen. The MSN TV service was discontinued by Microsoft in 2013.

Key Takeaways

  1. MSN TV was a web TV service developed by Microsoft, originally launched as WebTV in 1996 and later rebranded in 2001, providing television-based internet access to users.
  2. The service used a proprietary set-top box that connected to a television and a telephone line or, in later models, a broadband connection, allowing users to surf the web, send and receive emails, and access online content on their TV screens.
  3. MSN TV was officially discontinued by Microsoft in September 2013, as advancements in Smart TVs, streaming devices, and gaming consoles made accessing the internet and online content on televisions far more convenient and affordable.


MSN TV, originally known as WebTV, is an important technology term because it marked a significant milestone in the convergence of television and the internet.

Launched in the late 1990s, MSN TV aimed to bring internet access to households through TV sets, making the web more accessible to a broader audience.

The technology combined web browsing, email, and online content, providing an early glimpse into the possibilities of integrating the internet and multimedia into everyday home entertainment.

Although MSN TV was eventually discontinued in 2013, its innovative approach laid the foundation for the development of Smart TVs, streaming devices, and media platforms that are now common features in modern home entertainment systems.


MSN TV, initially known as WebTV, was a technological breakthrough that offered users a gateway to combine television and internet browsing across a single display. Launched in the mid-90s by WebTV Networks, this innovative technology was later acquired by Microsoft and rebranded as MSN TV.

The primary purpose of MSN TV was to provide a seamless internet surfing experience to people right on their television screens, specifically targeting users who did not own a computer or were new to the concept of the internet. The service enabled users to stay updated with news, weather, sports scores, email, and more, all without requiring a personal computer.

To access MSN TV, users needed a dedicated set-top box that connected the television to a dedicated MSN TV service via a dial-up or broadband internet connection. The device came equipped with supporting peripherals such as a wireless keyboard and remote control.

Essentially, MSN TV aimed to create a user-friendly virtual environment that bridged the gap between conventional television and the digital world, revolutionizing the way users accessed the internet. Although the service was discontinued in 2013, MSN TV paved the path for the now widely popular Smart TV concept, which has integrated various entertainment and information spaces into a single screen experience.

Examples of MSN TV

MSN TV Hardware – Initially known as WebTV, MSN TV was a digital set-top box developed by Microsoft in the mid-1990s. The technology aimed to bring internet access to non-computer users by providing web browsing and email functionalities through their TV sets. The hardware made it possible to connect a standard television with a phone line and navigate the web using a special remote control or wireless keyboard.

First-Generation MSN TV – The first-generation Microsoft WebTV system was launched in 1996 and had a

6 kbps modem and a simple remote control for web browsing. The service offered users email accounts, news, online shopping, and access to education resources. As the service grew over time and was integrated with MSN, it evolved into MSN TV by providing additional functionalities such as instant messaging and chat rooms.

MSN TV 2 – In 2004, Microsoft released an updated version of the service, called MSN TV

This version included several improvements over the original, such as a faster processor, more memory, a built-in Ethernet port, and USB ports for connecting external devices like printers and keyboards. While MSN TV 2 was more advanced than its predecessor, its relevance started to wane as personal computers became more affordable and widespread. In 2013, Microsoft announced the discontinuation of the MSN TV service, citing changes in the market and the increased popularity of other devices to access the internet.


1. What is MSN TV?

MSN TV, formerly known as WebTV, was a service that offered internet access through a television set and a simple user interface. It provided users with a way to browse the web, send and receive emails, join chat rooms, and access online content without the need for a traditional computer.

2. When was MSN TV launched?

WebTV was initially launched in 1996. It was later acquired by Microsoft in 1997 and rebranded as MSN TV. The service continued to operate until its eventual shutdown in September 2013.

3. What equipment was required to use MSN TV?

MSN TV customers needed a WebTV or MSN TV set-top box, a compatible television set, a phone line, and a subscription to the service. A wireless keyboard or remote control was also used to navigate and interact with the internet content.

4. How did MSN TV work?

Users connected the MSN TV set-top box to their television and phone line. The set-top box accessed the internet and converted web content into a format that could be displayed on the television screen. The service provided a simple interface that allowed users to browse the web, send and receive emails, and access multimedia content with ease.

5. Why did MSN TV shut down?

MSN TV was discontinued in September 2013 due to several factors, including increased competition from other devices and platforms, advancements in technology, and a decrease in the number of subscribers. The growth of smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs provided users with alternative ways to access the internet on their television screens, making the MSN TV service less attractive.

Related Technology Terms

  • Internet television
  • Set-top box
  • WebTV Networks
  • Microsoft
  • Online services

Sources for More Information

  • Microsoft – The official website of Microsoft Corporation, which created MSN TV.
  • CNET – A reliable source for reviews, news, and information on various technology products, including MSN TV.
  • PCMag – A leading authority on technology, delivering in-depth reviews and information about MSN TV and other tech products.
  • TechRadar – A comprehensive source for technology news and reviews, including information on MSN TV and other Internet TV services.

About The Authors

The DevX Technology Glossary is reviewed by technology experts and writers from our community. Terms and definitions continue to go under updates to stay relevant and up-to-date. These experts help us maintain the almost 10,000+ technology terms on DevX. Our reviewers have a strong technical background in software development, engineering, and startup businesses. They are experts with real-world experience working in the tech industry and academia.

See our full expert review panel.

These experts include:


About Our Editorial Process

At DevX, we’re dedicated to tech entrepreneurship. Our team closely follows industry shifts, new products, AI breakthroughs, technology trends, and funding announcements. Articles undergo thorough editing to ensure accuracy and clarity, reflecting DevX’s style and supporting entrepreneurs in the tech sphere.

See our full editorial policy.

More Technology Terms

Technology Glossary

Table of Contents