Napster to announce 'partnership' with NTL

UK launch date to be revealed tomorrow

Napster is to announce a tie-in with UK cableco NTL, a well-placed industry source claims. The arrangement could be made public this week, possibly as early as tomorrow when Napster will reveal the precise date for its UK launch.

Details of the NTL deal remain unclear, but it's likely to centre on a joint marketing programme, if it follows the pattern of the online music service's recent agreement with high street retailer Dixons.

There's a clear synergy between NTL and Napster - the latter's download service is an ideal application to promote NTL's broadband Internet connectivity.

NTL currently offers a music channel, MusicZone, on its web site. MZ is currently connected to music retailer HMV's online service, allowing punters to buy CDs but not song downloads. Napster could provide that function.

The Dixons deal is exclusive, but with NTL's coverage limited to specific geographical areas, Napster would almost certainly want to partner with other ISPs who can sell broadband to customers in the locations NTL cannot.

To date, Napster has said it will launch its download service in the UK "later this summer", but tomorrow will mark the start of the official countdown to the service's debut.

Napster UK communications director Adam Howorth confirmed tomorrow's launch-window announcement, but told The Register he was unaware of any deal with NTL.

An NTL spokeswoman said the cableco does not comment on rumours. ®

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