TiVo turns up volume on music television

Details emerge about Rhapsody, Music Choice deals

Much to the chagrin of the entrenched radio business, the concept of music delivered by television is getting a boost courtesy of TiVo, which disclosed details Monday of its previously announced relationship with Rhapsody and will probably do likewise with Music Choice next month.

TiVo first announced deals with Rhapsody, the subscription music product from RealNetworks, and with the digital cable TV service Music Choice in January, but the parties have been mum on details of their relationship and likely offerings since.

TiVo won't say if it will derive any revenue from the Rhapsody partnership, but it's another in a series of initiatives designed to differentiate TiVo from generic DVRs.

Music via TV has become big business.

Music Choice, for example, offers 45 music channels to 36 million digital cable households, and CEO Dave Del Beccaro said 60% of them listen regularly, giving Music Choice an audience of 45 million.

Music on the company's 45 channels is uninterrupted, though visual ads do appear on the TV screen. Music Choice revenue also comes from carriage fees.

Music Choice is a joint venture of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Microsoft, Sony, EMI Group and Motorola. The company launched to consumers in 1991 and has been profitable for a decade.

Also in the business are Sirius Satellite Radio, through a partnership with satellite TV provider EchoStar Communications, and XM Satellite Radio, via a deal with satellite TV giant DirecTV.

Music Choice also offers 400 music videos on demand, which is where TiVo will come in. Already, 10 million households use the VOD service each month and, since July, 75 million videos every month have been viewed, Del Beccaro said.

Insiders said that with TiVo, the offering of 400 different videos should swell significantly, because TiVo will grab them from the Music Choice Web site for viewing on TV screens. Music Choice has about 11,000 videos in its library.

But while the Music Choice-TiVo product has remained under wraps, the TiVo-Rhapsody partnership unwraps tonight (Tuesday) with a party at the Arena Night Club in New York.

With the new service, TiVo subscribers can use their remote control to search and play music from Rhapsody's catalog of more than 4 million songs. After a 30-day free trial, the service costs $12.99 per month.

Current Rhapsody subscribers who have broadband-connected TiVo units can use the new TiVo feature for no additional charge, the companies said.