Friday, 8 July 2011

Virgin Spotify users?

While the US tech/media/music press is getting excited about the imminent arrival of Spotify in the US (register your interest here), back in the UK there are plans afoot to integrate the music streaming service into Virgin Media customers subscription plans. Given that Virgin have obvious links with the music content industry, and already provides a number of on-demand music video services to customers on the more expensive television packages, then this deal (or something akin to it) is long overdue.  If this Spotfiy deal materialises it will be a welcome addition to the Virgin Media family, but there is a history of false starts and delayed promises with regards to Virgin being able to deliver.

Back in early June 2009 a number of premature announcements were made regarding a deal between Virgin and Universal Music.  Geoff Taylor of the BPI even so far as to claim the deal would help curb illegal file-sharing (although it doesn't take a genius to see how well-managed and reasonably-priced subscription deal might be beneficial to the industry more generally):
“It is very encouraging to see an ISP and a record label working together as creative partners.  At the same time, the fact that Virgin Media will apply a graduated response system to tackle persistent illegal downloaders demonstrates that graduated response is a proportionate and workable way forward."
However, after 2 years this deal had very little impact or clear outputs at the consumer level. So, it's at this juncture that some kind of deal might finally materialise.  Mark Sweeney has noted that the reason for this protracted business is because Virgin Media also had to separately agree terms with Universal Music, EMI, Sony Music and Warner Music as they have the power to veto any deal Spotify does.

It would seem that a final deal is still some way off and that it the music package won't be available to all customers.  The Register claim Virgin are planning on centring this service around their new TiVo PVR box (as opposed to their V+ HD and standard boxes). Virgin Media have announced that box will include a Spotfiy app. The TiVo service has gotten off to a shaky start if the number of price cuts are anything to go by.  The service was originally launched at a premium price of £199, but has been slashed down to £99 for the 1TB version and £49 for the 500GB box (with free installation).  Virgin Media have even took the unusual measure of refunding existing TiVo users the price difference.  

The deal does present a number of questions:
  • Will customers with existing Spotify accounts be able to connect this to their TiVo box?
  • Will the TiVo Spotify app be restricted to just one box per household/customer or will it include multiple accounts (nobody wants to lose all those carefully crafted playlists do they)?
  • What kind of pricing difference (if any) will there be between the TiVo app and the standalone versions?
So, the Spotify + Virgin deal is one with the usual caveats but there's no doubting that this is a great deal for Virgin Media customers. It also helps to challenge the market domination of players like Apple and Amazon.  This could be the start of a new phase of Spotify growth in the UK, and it'll be interesting to see how Apple responds to this (if at all) - if this partnership is successful in the UK, there's no doubt that other deals like it will be brokered in other territories.

1 comment:

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