BSkyB, Uni start digital music service

Satcaster wooing additional music companies

LONDON -- U.K. satcaster BSkyB is partnering with Universal Music to launch into the digital music market, the parties said Tuesday.

The satcaster will be the majority stakeholder in the unnamed startup venture, with Universal taking an undisclosed equity stake.

The startup will compete with music download stores from companies such as 7digital and HMV and offer an alternative to Apple's iTunes in the U.K.

The service, which is likely to be Sky-branded, will offer a monthly subscription service unlike iTunes' track-by-track purchasing.

The subscription will give users unlimited access to streamed tracks plus a set number of download-to-own songs.

Universal Music's catalog of songs from artists including Amy Winehouse, U2, Kanye West, Duffy, Rihanna, Eminem, Elton John and Abba will be on the roster.

Downloaded tracks will work on any device that can play MP3s, including iPods and mobile phones, Sky said.

BSkyB said it is in negotiations with other music companies to join the venture and to potentially take equity with Universal billed as "the first" to sign up.

Pricing will be revealed closer to the time of launch, Sky said.