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MP3 Players

Tesco announces DRM-free music supermarket

The retail leviathan has announced the launch of a DRM-free music download store that will extend to offer movies, TV shows and videogames in the future

Tesco announced today that it is moving into the digital entertainment download market, with the launch of a DRM-free MP3 store that will expand to offer movies, TV shows and videogames to the UK.

The supermarket's superservice will launch in May. Prices have not been confirmed, and Tesco declined to comment further on the matter. It did tell us that its prices would be "competitive" and that a variable pricing structure would be used. We were also told that "packages" of downloads would be offered, but exactly what this means wasn't obvious, and when questioned, its spokesperson declined to elaborate. Tesco's plan for the time being seems to be to keep everything under it's football pitch-sized hat.

Tesco will initially offer a catalogue of 3.3 million music tracks, 1.6 million of which will be in DRM-free MP3 format, with the rest of the library in MP3 by the end of the year. It could not immediately comment on what major labels are involved or what independent artists -- if any -- would be available on the site.

Digital music downloads are becoming more and more common in the UK, with iTunes leading the pack, followed by eMusic's completely DRM-free catalogue of independent artists, and 7digital's roster of DRM-free offerings from Warner Music and EMI. Play.com also offers music downloads alongside physical media sales, and Amazon's US MP3 store, which offers DRM-free downloads from every major record label, is set to come to the UK later this year.

But the more interesting aspect of Tesco's announcement is the one it elaborated on even less (hard though that was) -- that of episodic TV downloads, movies and videogames. The retailer declined to comment further -- shocking, we know -- on what content creators would be involved in this offering.

iTunes currently sells TV episodes in the UK from the BBC, Channel 4, Paramount, MTV and Warner Brothers.

Could the first supermarket to offer a DRM-free store succeed in such a busy marketplace? It's certainly not unlikely. Watch this space. -Nate Lanxon