‘Urge’ to Compete With iTunes

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NEW YORK ( -- MTV Networks has teamed with Microsoft Corp. to launch in early 2006 an Apple iTunes competitor called “Urge.”

News of the long-rumored service was first reported in Ad Age Aug. 22. MTV first mentioned such a service was in the works in 2003 when at a Harris Nesbitt investor conference Viacom Co-President and Co-Chief Operating Officer Tom Freston discussed an MTV-created digital music downloading service that he said would compete with market leader iTunes.

Fast-growing market
For the fast-growing side of Viacom Mr. Freston is leading, a successful digital-music business could be a boon -- the $765 million market is expected to top $3.4 billion by 2009, according to Veronis Suhler. But going up against iTunes, which boasts about 70% of the digital-music market share, won’t be an easy task.

MTV Networks will be banking on the marketing force of its music networks. Urge will be promoted under music brands MTV, VH1 and CMT. The service will offer 2 million songs spanning all genres for purchase and will be integrated into an upcoming version of Microsoft Windows Media Player. It will also offer exclusive programming and content from MTV Networks.

Microsoft already has its own digital music service, MSN Music, which it will continue to market and make available through Windows Media Player.

MTV and Microsoft didn’t initially release pricing information or whether the service would be an a la carte or subscription model, or both. The two companies said they would unveil more details about Urge at January’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

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