MTV has announced that it will be partnering with Microsoft to develop an online music service due to be released early next year.
The service, dubbed Urge, will have it's technology developed by Microsoft but it will owned and operated by Viacom's MTV Networks. Although not confirmed it appears as though it will initially only be available in the U.S. with the need to strike deals with various regional distributers delaying rollout globally in the same way it slowed the advance of iTunes.
The front end of the shop will be integrated in to the next version of Windows Media Player and although other shops are already hooked in to the player the MTV store will be the preferred offering. The store will be heavily promoted on MTV's music channels, MTV, VH1 and CMT (U.S. only country music channel).
MTV has been slow to provide pricing details but they will offer two models, an iTunes style single song model and a subscription / rental package. A radio station will also stream music live 24 hours a day.
"By combining our expertise in digital media with the music leadership and marketing savvy of MTV Networks, we have created a powerful and unique way to experience music," said Blair Westlake, corporate vice president of the Media/Entertainment and Technology Convergence Group at Microsoft. "This landmark collaboration will bring innovative new experiences to millions of music fans."
"As with everything we do at MTV Networks, every element of URGE will be developed with our audience in mind," said Jason Hirschhorn, MTV Networks’ chief digital officer. "Beyond providing a simple transactional service, URGE will provide a musical playground where fans can experiment, customize, discover and download new music."
Several commentators have been quick to question the new services target market especially as the MTV Generation is also the iPod Generation.
"We think the iPod has done a great job. Our aim is not to switch people from iTunes and the iPod," said Jason Hirschhorn, MTV's chief digital officer. "We need to concentrate on where there's going to be a bigger market."
The new service may well cause a few users to switch from the iPod to other players but the iPod drove users to iTunes not the other way round and the hardware is the lifestyle device not the music download service.