MTV and Microsoft
feel the URGE


18 May 2006

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MTV and Microsoft have teamed up to offer US customers an MP3 download service. The service, called URGE, uses Microsoft Windows Media Player 11 and includes the option of transferring songs to portable MP3 players, although it is not compatible with Apple’s iPod.

The service allows customers to browse and download from two million tracks online. It also has a host of features designed to promote the exploration and discovery of music, such as music blogs, custom-made playlists (sorted by genre, decades, moods, cities etc), editorial content and more than 130 commercial-free radio stations.

According to Microsoft and MTV, the integration between URGE and the Media Player 11 is a visually driven experience using thumbnail and album art, a simple design and customisation capabilities for more personalised interaction.

It features highly simplified navigation using ‘instant search’ capabilities, enhanced shortcut options and dedicated category views for all media types, including music, photos and video. It promises better access to content with deep service integration that blurs the line between online service and media player experiences.

The service will also boast industry-first audio fingerprinting capabilities for advanced music metadata tagging; new formats for ripping and music playback, including Windows Media Audio (WMA) Professional and WAV Lossless. As well as this, URGE is expected to include improved device experience with new shuffle sync and reverse sync options and enhanced device exploration using the library view and intuitive help icons to facilitate intuitive syncing and burning of rights-managed content.

“When we first set out to design URGE, our goal was to create an immersive experience that surrounded fans in all things music,” said Van Toffler, president of MTV Networks Music/Logo/Films Group. “URGE distinguishes itself through handcrafted programming, innovative music discovery features and unique integration with Windows Media Player 11. It’s an important pillar of MTV Networks’ overall digital strategy and as our audience continues to embrace digital music delivery, URGE will serve as a vital vehicle to connect fans with all the music they love.”

“We wanted to create a media player that delivers the most powerful features in a program that is intuitive and fun to use,” said Mike Sievert, corporate vice-president of Windows Client Marketing at Microsoft.

“So in designing Windows Media Player 11, we incorporated a significant amount of feedback from music fans and worked hand in hand with MTV Networks. As a result, Windows Media Player 11 truly revolutionises the way we enjoy music and provides a test drive of the breakthrough entertainment capabilities people will experience in the forthcoming Windows Vista operating system,” Sievert said.

The download service will be made available to European markets in the future but there is no timeframe in place yet for this.

The pricing structure for US customers includes URGE All Access at US$9.95 per month or US$99 per year (with two months free), which enables users to play or download two million full-length songs, enjoy 130 commercial-free CD-quality radio stations and more than 500 playlists.

A second tier, URGE All Access to Go, costs US$14.95 per month or US$149 per year (with two months free) and offers the same features as URGE All Access and the ability to transfer subscription music to compatible portable music players.

A final tier, URGE by The Track, allows consumers to purchase individual tracks for 99 cents or purchase entire albums or playlists at varying prices.

By Niall Byrne