November 4, 2003 5:27 PM PST

MTV guns for iTunes

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Viacom, whose Internet music efforts have hit a few sour notes along the way, said it was hatching a plan to go after Apple Computer's successful iTunes service with its MTV brand.

The media conglomerate confirmed that it was looking into launching a music download service in the first half of next year.

MTV Chief Executive Tom Freston described those plans on Monday at the Harris Nesbitt Gerard Playtime investor conference in New York City, saying the service would compete with iTunes, among others, according to a Reuters report.

Beyond confirming that it planned to launch the service in the first half of 2004, MTV declined to comment.

Thus far, Viacom has had limited success in translating its powerful MTV brand from television to the Internet.

During the height of the Internet boom, the company brought its online music brands under the "MTVi" umbrella, but that group faltered.

News that the company was reviving its online ambitions drew mixed reactions from one analyst.

"If they're talking about the first half of next year, it sounds to me like they've lost the first-mover advantage," said Phil Leigh, analyst with Phil Leigh's Inside Digital Media. "It's certainly a strong brand and a force to be reckoned with, but it can't afford to be forever late."

Leigh said that in addition to contending with Apple's established iTunes brand, MTV would have to compete with the reconstituted Napster. He also predicted that Hewlett-Packard would form a partnership along the lines of the one recently established between Dell and MusicMatch.


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