U.K. telecom giant BT is reported to be working on a music download service that would be available to its 5.5 million broadband customers.
According to The Guardian, "BT says it will unveil the product 'in the near future,' while talks are thought to be ongoing with major music labels such as Universal Music and EMI."
One aspect of the article jumps out: BT will offer the service free for the first six or nine months before charging for the service. That's important for two reasons. First, BT will be asking labels (and, indirectly, artists) to go along on this six- to nine-month freebie. That's a lot to ask. But when the U.K. communications minister is trying to bring together ISPs and content owners, an extended period of reduced or eliminated royalties would not be a surprise.
Second, the fact that BT plans to charge for the service at a later point means the cost of the music service will be a separate line item on a customer's bill and will not be embedded into the price of broadband access. That explains the free trial period, which will aim to get the customer hooked on the service by the time it hits monthly bills.
The article gives no indication as to the type of service BT has in mind. The Guardian astutely points to Sky Songs, the failed music service of broadband provider BSkyB, as proof that a purely subscription model might not fly. But above all, Sky Songs is proof that telecoms might be wise to partner with an existing music service rather than build one on their own. BT has partnership options that would get it to market faster and probably give its customers a better product.