After years of planning an innovative music service, British telecom Virgin Media will instead partner with Spotify, according to a report in The Guardian.
The report went on to say the company is planning a limited trial of the service this summer and a full launch in the fourth quarter of this year. The service could be bundled with TV, broadband and telephone services.
In response to The Guardian's report, a Virgin Media spokesperson told Tech Radar the company is working on a new music service and "developing a proposition that promises to be a truly attractive alternative to illegal file-sharing."
A partnership with Spotify would effectively end Virgin Media's plans to launch a home-grown music service that was first announced two years ago. The service was originally described as a combination of unlimited MP3 downloads and unlimited streaming. Universal Music Group was the quick to get on board and a rep for Virgin Media told Billboard.biz it was "in talks with both major and independent labels to launch a comprehensive service."
But it was became obvious that Virgin Media had overestimated the market. By last year the service had lost the element of unlimited downloads - most likely a sticking point for some rights holders - and had apparently morphed into a more typical subscription service.
Much has changed in recent years, however. Streaming media has become a viable alternative to downloading. There has been a rise of cloud-based services that both stream and cache an unlimited number of tracks. As a result, a plan to offer unlimited MP3 downloads seems like an antiquated notion of how best to fight piracy. By partnering with Spotify, Virgin Media gets a service more in tune with the times.
To launch a music service, Internet service providers can build, buy or partner. Partnerships allow telecoms to offer top-notch services to their customers without spending time and resources building their own. For example, Spotify has partnered with Telia in Sweden, TeliaSonera in Finland and 3UK in the UK.
But many have chosen to build it themselves. British telecom BSkyB launched its own unlimited service, Sky Songs, in October 2009. It was shut down in February. Just this week, Ireland's Eircom just announced the launch of its MusicHub service that gives consumers free streaming and inexpensive bundles of MP3 downloads.