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MTV eyes Net radio venture

The music media giant apparently is looking to expand its online presence into a new vein: Internet radio.

Music media giant MTV apparently is looking to expand its online presence into a new vein: Net radio.

The firm recently was in talks to buy Spinner.com, a privately held Net radio firm formerly known as TheDJ.com, according to sources close to the talks. The sources said talks broke down when the parties couldn't agree on a price.

Spinner representatives declined comment. Matt Farber, senior vice president of programming for MTV Networks, declined to comment about Spinner or MTV's other plans for an online radio venture. But a move into Net radio is a logical step for MTV.

"It makes perfect sense for them," said Mark Mooradian, senior analyst at Jupiter Communications. "Every national media property that's involved with music is going to go into online programming."

He pointed to the Rolling Stone Network, which, along with an array of music content, offers online radio powered by RealNetworks. He characterized it as a "brilliant idea," and said that although the site only offers one station, "I guarantee you that a year from now there will be half a dozen."

Spinner was not the first or only radio firm to pique MTV's interest. Brad Porteus, vice president of marketing for Imagine Radio, noted that his company and MTV "ran into each other at [trade show] WebNoize, and we talked about trying to get together."

Though Porteus characterized Imagine Radio's contact with MTV as "casual conversations," he noted that MTV "seems to be interested in getting into the [Net radio] space," and that the company implied it would be making significant moves there.

With the Web music space maturing, players are continuing to seek ways to make their investments in the medium pay off. MTV has had a significant and popular online presence for a long time by Web standards, so it is not surprising that it would look to newer technologies and programming opportunities for its evolution online.

Another factor playing a part in MTV's moves is the promise of significantly faster Net access becoming available to the masses. With broadband in mind, many companies--most recently portals such as America Online, Yahoo, Snap, and Excite--are ramping up their efforts to offer content that takes better advantage of Web technologies such as on-demand rich audio and video.

Another offline media giant, Warner Bros., which recently launched a "destination" site, also is planning an array of content for faster access.

"Broadband is our Holy Grail," Jim Banister, executive vice president of Warner Bros. Online, said when the site, ACMEcity, launched. "Warner Bros. is a broadband company in a narrowband body. ACMEcity is part of a broader entertainment programming play that Warner Bros. is starting to really go after."

One of ACMEcity's plans for a revenue stream from the site when broadband takes hold is to offer audio and video programming exclusively online for a fee, according to Richard Jones, cofounder of FortuneCity, Warner Bros. Online's partner in the venture.

MTV, which was built on offering a new kind of content when it began showing music videos in the 1980s, is in a strong position to do the same thing because it is such a big force among teens and college students. With the audience it wields, MTV has the power to offer popular content either for a fee or with the knowledge that it can charge a premium for advertising as it can on TV.

Imagine Radio's Porteus added: "Broadband sounds like it's going to be the buzz word for 1999. That's great news for us--and anyone who does streaming audio."

Although MTV's bid for Spinner didn't work out, the sources said it will be making an announcement involving a Net radio push in the coming weeks.