Rhapsody customers will be able to access programming from MTV, VH1 and CMT, and Verizon Wireless subscribers will be able to download music to their V CAST-enabled phones as well as transfer digital music to their phones from their PC. At some point Verizon will allow copies of songs purchased over the air to be sent directly to a customer's Rhapsody account, and vice versa. The challenges of making all that work together are non-trivial, as the wonks like to say.
The JV Rhapsody America will be headed by Michael Bloom, who oversaw the unsuccessful Urge, MTV's attempt to build a digital-music service with Microsoft. The company will not even be headquartered in one place, with offices in New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Hey, why not Reykjavik?
The principal owner of the joint venture will be RealNetworks, which has seen its sun sink slowly in the West as the music-download business has taken off. Real's share price has lost 51% of its value since the beginning of this year.
"By bringing together the cultural and musical heritage of the MTV Networks family with the functionality of Rhapsody and the reach of V CAST Music, it's like we've put the best lead singer, drummer and guitarist all on the same giant stage," crowed Van Toffler, president of MTV Networks' music group.
He's forgetting what happens with such supergroups: they tend to be bombastic, riven with ego clashes, and short-lived.