Hulu in talks with ITV for UK start


Hulu, the US video-on-demand venture, has begun talks with British broadcasters including ITV as it gears up for a UK launch later this year.

A launch in the UK has been much anticipated following the website’s huge success in the US, where it has attracted more than 24 million users a month. Hulu users can watch episodes and clips of popular TV programmes and films from a range of broadcasters via the internet.

Following the failed attempt at getting Project Kangaroo – the video-on-demand (VOD) venture planned by broadcasters including ITV and Channel 4 –past regulators, Hulu has recognised that there is a gap in the market for an ad-funded on-demand offering which brings together content from major broadcasters.

A UK Hulu site is also likely to include a significant amount of US content and would provide a one-stop shop for VOD content. Hulu was thought to have had some reservations about entering the UK market because of concern about a stringent regulatory environment. However, the talks suggest they are keen to move quickly. An ITV source confirmed that talks had begun with Hulu.

The BBC’s director general has suggested other broadcasters could share its iPlayer VOD service, which allows viewers to watch BBC shows online at a time of their choosing.

Read the full story on the Telegraph website.


Microsoft to launch Spotify rival


The service, which Microsoft aims to have ready by the end of July, will offer users the chance to stream music for free and also download to own.

Peter Bale, executive producer of MSN, Microsoft’s news and entertainment portal, told The Telegraph exclusively: “Music is an important area for Microsoft. We are looking at launching a music streaming service imminently. It will be a similar principle to Spotify but we are still examining how the business model will work.”

Spotify users can stream music for free in exchange for listening to around a minute of advertising every half hour but for £9.99 a month, the ads will be turned off. It is thought Microsoft’s offering will be ad-supported too as well as having a paid-for premium service.

Mr Bale added: “We are looking at how other similar businesses have structured their business models and trying to figure out what will work best for both consumer and Mircosoft.”

The service would be operated and owned by Microsoft, while being promoted through MSN and other parts of the Microsoft network.

He also hinted the service could be tied in with Microsoft’s Xbox gaming console, but would not be drawn on the details of how a partnership would work.

Read the full story on the Telegraph website.

Web grinds to a halt after Michael Jackson dies


It may be more than nearly 20 years since Michael Jackson was the dominant personality in the music industry, but news of his death caused an avalanche of online traffic as millions of people turned to the web to find out the latest news about the singer’s health.

Shortly after 4pm in New York – less than an hour after Michael Jackson was taken to hospital in Los Angeles – TMZ, the popular celebrity gossip website, broke the story after a tip-off that a paramedic had visited the singer’s home.

“It’s looking bad,” the site claimed, reporting that he had suffered a heart attack. “We’re told his mother is on the way to visit him.”

Within seconds of the first reports hitting the web, information started spreading online – flushing a mixture of confirmed reports and hearsay through a string of other news websites, blogs and social networks.

On Wikipedia, the conflicting reports of Jackson’s health caused a short editing war between users over whether or not he had died; meanwhile tens of thousands of messages started hitting messaging website Twitter, causing the service to come grinding to a halt.

Read the full story on the Guardian website.

Musicians demand BNP stop selling their songs


Musicians from bands including Blur and Pink Floyd have launched a campaign demanding that the British National party stop selling their music to raise campaign funds.

The BNP is selling folk albums on its website featuring artists who claim they have no control over the fact that the far-right party is using their songs.

The BNP’s commercial partner Excalibur sells compilation CDs with titles including Proud Heritage, Rule Britannia and The White Cliffs of Dover.

An album called West Wind, written by the party leader, Nick Griffin, and featuring songs including Nothing Bloody Works and Colour, is among those being sold. It claims “to incorporate folk and more upbeat tempos to deliver a powerful message of how British people have been dispossessed”.

Billy Bragg, along with Dave Rowntree from Blur and Nick Mason from Pink Floyd, have joined with the Musicians’ Union and Featured Artists’ Coalition in objecting to the BNP’s “politics and morals”.

“In the lead up to the European elections, it has come to our attention that the BNP is selling compilation CDs through its website in order to raise funds for campaigning,” they wrote in a letter published in the Times.

“Many of the musicians featured on these … have no legal right to object to their music being used in this way. We would, on behalf of our joint membership of over 31,000 members, like to have our opposition to the BNP’s politics and morals formally noted.”

Read the full story on the Guardian website.

The lowdown on the Napster relaunch


Last fall Best Buy bought Napster for a jaw dropping $121 million, a staggering sum in the free-music era that Napster helped create.

The electronics retailer thinks it can do something special with the music service though and now those plans will see the light of day.

Yesterday the new Napster launched with a $5 monthly subscription plan (down from the old $15 plan) and what you get for that price looks quite good. 5 MP3 downloads per month (screenshot shows free credits for an initial 35 MP3s too), free on-demand streaming of more than 7 million songs and additional download purchases for between 69 cents and $1.29.

The interface looks like what iTunes would have looked like if it was a native Windows app. The company says it is still working on making mobile a more compelling experience, something expected to be a big part of the plan when the acquisition happened.

The new Napster seems like a compelling offer but remains an incremental change from everything else the industry offers.

Read the full story on the ReadWriteWeb website.

Amazon launches music downloads


amazon-mp3-logoOnline retail website Amazon has launched a UK music download service.

Amazon MP3 will sell tracks from 59p and albums from £3.

The new music store will offer more than 3 million songs that will work on any digital music player, including Apple’s iPod.

The move puts Amazon in direct competition with Apple for a stake in the growing market of online music sales, which in Britain alone was worth an estimated £163m in 2007.

Sony BMG Music Entertainment’s UK chairman, Ged Doherty, said the launch could only be good news for the music industry.

“Amazon’s music services in the US have attracted new digital music consumers and helped grow the digital market. We have high hopes that it will have the same impact in the UK.”

Read the full story on the BBC News website.