Virgin, Universal start music service
LONDON - Virgin Media, the cable television operator owned by entrepreneur Richard Branson, launched a new music download subscription service yesterday with Universal, the world's largest music company.
The service will allow Virgin Media's broadband customers in Britain to stream and download as many songs and albums as they like from Universal's catalog for a fee.
But entertainment lawyers said the service was unlikely to solve the global music industry's problem of billions of dollars lost to music piracy and would need to offer content from big-name entertainers to be attractive.
Universal, by far the biggest industry player, has a roster of talent that includes U2, Elton John, the Rolling Stones, Amy Winehouse, Duffy, and James Morrison. Virgin said it is talking with other British major and independent music labels and publishers about including their artists in the new service.
The music will be available to download in an MP3 format, giving buyers the ability to listen on a range of devices, including iPods, mobile phones, and PCs, as well as other MP3 players.
The subscription service, due to be available later this year, builds on mobile phone unlimited download services such as Nokia's "Comes With Music," - allowing for a massive range of music to be downloaded - as the industry fights a losing battle against illegal downloading.