Pre-paid card option to roll out in 800 stores.

France's online-music retail sector has added another player to its ranks with the launch today (Aug. 31) of supermarket chain Magasins U's branded digital- service, powered by Seattle-based Loudeye Corp.

During the launch's first phase, customers buy tracks from Loudeye's European catalog using in-store pre-pard cards sold at 50 Magasins U outlets nationwide. The pre-paid cards will be rolled out to the remainder of the retailer's 800-plus stores in the first part of 2006.

"The French market is one of our longest-standing areas outside of the United Kingdom, and we're pleased that we are continuing to expand in this territory," says Ed Averdieck, Loudeye Europe's London-based GM.

The pre-paid cards are available in denominations of €5 ($6.10), €15 ($18.30), €30 ($36.60) and €50 ($61). Customers purchasing the latter three dominations will be entitled to free extra credits of €1 ($1.22), €3 ($3.66) and €10 ($12.2), respectively.

Customers also have the option to pay for the downloadable and streamed tracks with credit cards.