As expected, Pressplay, the subscription service being developed by Universal Music Group (UMG) and Sony Music Entertainment, has cut a non-exclusive deal to distribute its content through Microsoft’s Internet service provider, MSN, Billboard Bulletin reports.
Pressplay and Microsoft will team on a co-branded subscription offering that can be accessed through the MSN Music channel. As part of the deal, Pressplay will make its content available to all of its affiliates in Microsoft’s Windows Media format, using Windows Media digital rights management technology.
However, Pressplay president/CEO Andy Schuon tells Bulletin that the service is technology “agnostic,” adding that it is “very conceivable” that it will offer other application and rights management formats in the future. “It’s really important to us to offer the consumer as much choice as possible,” he says. Meanwhile, executives at Microsoft — on both the MSN and Windows Media sides — term the deal a victory for the reach and quality of its products and services.
Pressplay, which is expected to launch later this summer, will ultimately offer on-demand access to downloaded and streamed music. Amanda Casemore, a product manager with MSN, says consumers will initially be offered streams only.
The Microsoft pact reflects a deepening division among content and technology companies vying to control the digital music market. An alliance between UMG, Sony, and Microsoft creates a clear rival to the MusicNet camp of AOL Time Warner (parent of Warner Music Group and America Online), Bertelsmann (home to BMG Entertainment and BeMusic, and an investor in Napster), EMI, and RealNetworks, Microsoft’s primary competition in the media-player software market and an emerging foe in the digital rights management business.
Still, executives at Microsoft and Pressplay say that they individually remain in talks with the other major labels about content distribution deals. Microsoft is Pressplay’s second distribution partner; in April, the company cut a similar deal with Web portal Yahoo!.