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FLOATING THE SUB MODEL
Sony/UMG, MP3.com, Microsoft/Music Choice Bow Subscription Services
After being bandied about in tech-entertainment circles for years, the subscription model made a multi-faceted debut today, with offerings from Sony Music Entertainment/Universal Music Group, MP3.com and Microsoft/Music Choice.

Sony/UMG say they plan to offer music and video via a multi-platform service (incorporating computer, wireless and set-top access) with a monthly fee. No further details are forthcoming just yet, but insiders are wondering if this will be a streaming playlist interface along the lines of MyMP3.com or an all-you-can-download buffet like a copyright-cleared Napster.

Speaking of MP3.com, the unflappable michael robertson',390,400);">michael robertson',390,400);">Michael Robertson and company may have reason to celebrate above and beyond the improved fortunes of their stock as they hail the debut of MyMP3.com's $9.99-per-month Classical Music Channel. The site will offer some 3,400 tracks from such chartbusters as Luciano Pavarotti and Yehudi Menuhin as well as flash-in-the-pans Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. MP3.com is clearly hoping to expand beyond its young base—and banking on the willingness of adults (who generally pay for the cable that younger consumers merely watch) to fork over the monthly fee.

As negotiations continue with labels over licensing MyMP3.com in the wake of Friday's summary judgment, the company remains typically upbeat. "Listening to music via subscription is the way of the future for the music business," declared Directorof Channel Programming Chris Montgomery. "We invite labels and content-owners alike to join us in developing a mutually equitable system. Remember: Chicks dig that orchestra crap."

Meanwhile, digital music provider Music Choice has gotten a big check from Microsoft (which owns a minority stake in the dot-com) to offer its own sub service. Though details on this one are sketchy, the company has bowed a yearly-fee model, "Backstage Pass," which asks only $4.99 per year from users for access to an array of multimedia content, both programmed and downloadable. The company has made much of the end of the era of free content and the beginning of real revenue from Net entertainment. But will a fin-per-annum counterbalance the still-extravagant promotion costs of such a venture?

Meanwhile, people who already paid for cable and couldn't watch "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" were really pissed at Time-Cable this week.

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