On Tuesday, Microsoft and MTV Networks announced that MTV will start a new online music service next year called URGE, which will be based on Microsoft technology. Although further details of this new partnership will be revealed in January at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, this much is already obvious: Linking with MTV is a major component of Microsoft's strategy to gain market share back from digital music leader Apple Computer.
According to MTV, URGE will be the "preferred service" in Windows Media Player (WMP) 11, the next version of Microsoft's integrated media player, displacing Microsoft's own service, MSN Music. This strategy suggests that Microsoft believes MTV, and not MSN, has the necessary cachet with younger music fans to get them to switch from Apple's iTunes service. As with other Microsoft-based services, URGE won't be compatible with Apple's iPod MP3, however. This lack of compatibility may limit the service's popularity.
According to both companies, URGE will offer more than 2 million songs for sale individually or as part of a subscription offering, exclusive MTV programming, rich entertainment programming, and music discovery features. The service will be promoted heavily on MTV Networks channels such as MTV, VH1, and CMT, and will include an online radio component as well.
Microsoft and MTV said that they would reveal more details about the service, including pricing, next month.