Viacom Inc.'s MTV Networks and digital media company RealNetworks announced Tuesday a digital music joint venture that will compete with Apple's dominant trinity of the iTunes store, iPod player and iPhone. MTV will merge its Urge music service into the Rhapsody offering from RealNetworks Inc. The new offering will be accessible on computers and music players and integrated with Verizon Wireless's VCast multimedia service for cell phones. It will be run by a new company, Rhapsody America, and MTV will heavily market the service starting in September and will provide music playlists and other programming.
The companies did not say how much the new service will cost. Rhapsody currently charges subscribers $12.99 a month for unlimited listening and sells individual tracks for 99 cents, with a discount for subscribers. Michael Bloom, previously the general manager of Urge, will head up the new company. In an interview, he said Urge's existing customers will be migrated to Rhapsody America over time, but would not give further details. For now, Urge customers can use their accounts on Rhapsody and enjoy access to both services.