Woolworths says it plans to enter the U.K. download market "within the next few weeks." The London-based company today confirmed details of its download service as it announced that it narrowed its fi

Woolworths says it plans to enter the U.K. download market "within the next few weeks." The London-based company today confirmed details of its download service as it announced that it narrowed its first-half losses.

The major record companies and "numerous" independent labels have inked licensing deals for the digital music service, which will be at woolworths.co.uk. A spokesman says the company will have more than 200,000 titles available to download at launch.

All titles will be in the Windows Media Player format. Current hit single downloads will be priced from £0.79 ($1.40), and albums will cost £7.99 ($14) or more. No subscription charge will apply.

This is not Woolworths' first foray into the download space. The company launched its "Preview" service last year, which enabled users to hear audio samples of titles. After just eight months, that service was put "on hold" indefinitely, according to a spokesman. The group's wholesale distribution division, Entertainment U.K., launched a commercial download service in 2003.

Woolworths is one of the biggest players in music sales among U.K. supermarket chains. According to figures supplied by trade body the British Phonographic Industry, Woolworths recorded a 11.2% share of the United Kingdom's albums market in value terms in 2003. It registered a 29.5% share of the value of the singles sector during the same period, according to the BPI Statistical Handbook 2004.

Woolworths reported a loss before tax and goodwill amortization of £32.9 million ($58 million) in the 26 weeks to July 31, vs. a loss of £34.9 million ($61 million) in the corresponding period last year. First-half sales rose 5.9% to £1.1 billion ($1.9 billion).