Sony Music Streaming Service Debuts in U.S. to Challenge iTunes

Sony Corp. and three record labels started a streaming music service in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand to challenge the dominance of Apple Inc.’s iTunes.

Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity,” which Sony unveiled in September, started in the U.K. and Ireland in December and in France, Germany, Italy and Spain in January. The service is available on Sony’s PlayStation 3 game console, Blu- ray Disc player, Bravia televisions and personal computers and will be offered on smartphones using Google Inc.’s Android operating systems.

The Japanese company aims to introduce the service, which offers basic membership for $3.99 a month, in at least nine more countries before the end of the year, Shawn Layden, executive vice president for Sony Network Entertainment group, said in an interview yesterday.

Music Unlimited, which has more than 6 million songs, lets Sony Music Entertainment and partners Universal Music Group, EMI Music and Warner Music Group Corp. sell directly to customers, giving them increased control over revenue as the industry battles piracy and declining CD sales.

The U.S. introduction of Music Unlimited comes after Apple said this week it would begin enforcing a rule in the terms of service for its App Store that requires subscriptions and content to be sold through an application at the same price or less than elsewhere online. Purchases made within an application are subject to a 30 percent commission that Apple charges.

Sony aims to support Apple’s iPhone, iPad and other mobile products later this year, Layden said. He declined comment on whether the new subscription rules would delay such a rollout.

ITunes, introduced in 2001, is the largest destination for buying music in the U.S., ahead of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., according to researcher NPD Group Inc. As of September, iTunes had registered 11.7 billion downloads.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cliff Edwards in San Francisco at cedwards28@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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