MTV and Microsoft team up for new digital music service ‘URGE’

Press Release:

MTV Networks, a division of Viacom Inc. and Microsoft Corp. today announced they have collaborated on the design and development of MTV Networks’ new digital music service called URGE. Set to debut domestically in 2006, URGE will provide an immersive music experience and will be integrated into a forthcoming version of Microsoft Windows Media Player. The collaboration unites MTV Networks’ music DNA, marketing strengths and powerful MTV, VH1 and CMT brands with the technology leadership and consumer reach of Microsoft.

URGE will offer rich entertainment programming and innovative tools designed to guide musical discovery and connect fans to the artists and music they love. Offering more than 2 million songs from the major labels and thousands of independents, URGE will encompass all musical genres, from alt-country to zydeco. In addition to a broad catalogue of music choices, URGE will deliver a deep well of exclusive MTV Networks programming and original, hand-crafted content.

URGE has garnered early support from Clive Davis, Chairman and CEO BMG U.S., Lyor Cohen, Chairman and CEO of U.S. Recorded Music for Warner Music Group, and musical superstars Alicia Keys, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, and Gretchen Wilson.

“We live to connect artists and fans in the most imaginative ways possible,” said Van Toffler, MTV Networks Music Group President. “With our new service, we will be able to satisfy music lovers’ urges for all things music. In many ways, URGE will serve as a ‘psychic concierge,’ introducing fans to new artists and helping them to develop a deeper connection to old favorites.”

“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 Media Technology and Convergence 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 is being 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 explore, customize, discover and download new music.”

Upon its debut next year, URGE will be promoted through multiple venues, including the MTV, VH1 and CMT channels, which on average collectively reach more than 165 million viewers U.S., as well as through the respective brands’ Web sites and Urge.com. Additional details of the new service will be unveiled in January at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Another Windows-only music service that sells music in a format that’s incompatible with Apple’s iPod (unless you burn a disc and import into iTunes)?

A WMA-based, Windows-only, iPod-incompatible two million+ song library doesn’t trump the market-dominating iTunes Music Store’s two million+ song library that integrates seamlessly with the market-dominating iPod and also happens to offer major TV shows and thousands of music videos. Speaking of music videos, does MTV even run them anymore? You want to see your favorite artists’ music videos? That’s right, you just pop into iTunes Music Store.

iPod is the key and MTV and Microsoft don’t have it, no matter how much marketing they put behind URGE. Too little, too late, Microsoft. For the health of Real’s Rob Glaser, however, hopefully the defib was charged up and nearby when he heard about this. It sounds like Real’s new partner Microsoft wants to finish them off once and for all.

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Related article:
MTV: URGE music service with Microsoft not targeting iPod, iTunes users; Real may be hurt by deal – December 13, 2005

67 Comments

  1. MTV – its all ‘real life drama’. I think they stopped playing music/music videos in the 80s.

    This should be fun. ha. 2 companies that have no idea what they are doing or where their niche is – joining efforts.

    tick tick tick….

  2. three questions:

    1) what is the price point?
    2) what is the value add over itunes experience?
    3) what is the service model: buy or subscribe or both

    …now this may be an attempt by the record companies to threaten to “starve” itunes of content, thus forcing Apple to “cave” on the price model or face “no tunes”

    question is will this work without the third piece of Apple’s vertical structure –> ipod and ipod compatibility? MS is trying to develop a player of their own, so we shall see.

    I would caution the entertainment industry: Lot’s of folks who thought they could partner with MS are now “bought” or “dead” or “out of the business” they started in.

  3. Looking forward to seeing their hardware product that will emulate Apple’s “seamless” system. Someone on these forums will poop on it, as usual, and we’ll seal it with liquid gold.

  4. Apple is the real problem here. They should be bending over backwards to make the iPod compatible with every single music service out there, but instead, they are digging their heels in the sand and not moving towards worldwide compatibility. Just like Internet Explorer eroded Netscape’s dominant marketshare, this may be the first chink in the armor for the iPod. Apple is the problem here, not Microsoft/MTV.

  5. As others have said, the success of the store lies with the hardware. Look at BuyMusic, Napster, and Real. None of them are selling anything. Why will this be any different. iTMS is an awesome service, but it’s the seamless connection to the iPod that makes it successful.

  6. Hey Scott,

    When you wake up and realize that Apple has 80% of downloads, 75% of portable players (even larger percentages when measured by GB instead of units, or when measured by those actually in use), and work on 95% of all personal computers, that’s close to worldwide compatibility. When Apple reaches 95% in all categories, then they will have de facto worldwide compatibility.

    So no bending over backwards (that would be heading in the MS direction), Apple will just continue innovating and moving forward and keep being the iPod KILLER, putting mp3 players and stores out of their misery.

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  7. “three questions:

    1) what is the price point?
    2) what is the value add over itunes experience?
    3) what is the service model: buy or subscribe or both”

    HAHAHHAHA i smell a windows apologist

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