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MTV Networks launches online lyrics initiative

The Viacom pop culture division, still struggling with the transition to the digital era, has announced a new lyrics-centric project that will begin rolling out in November.

On Monday, MTV Networks is set to unveil an initiative to connect its television, online, and mobile presences by helping music fans answer that crucial question--"Who the (expletive) sings that song?"

In other words, MTV Networks, the Viacom division that encompasses the MTV, VH1, and CMT brands as well as a host of other pop culture channels, is aiming to renew its focus on music by bringing lyrics to the forefront. This will begin rolling out in November and is expected to be complete by the middle of 2008.

On television, several of the networks' existing music-related programs will start to incorporate "lyrics and the artists' inspirations for their words" into their structure, and all three channels will air a new "Name That Tune" series, according to a release from MTV Networks.

Online, the networks' Web sites will feature lyrics search data from digital music database Gracenote, accompanied by multimedia artist information, trivia games, and a link to purchase the song in question--which will undoubtedly be tied into MTV Networks' Rhapsody-powered music store when that launches. And in the mobile space, curious music fans will be able to text-message inquiries (an artist's name, song name, or snippet of lyric) to a SMS code and receive a link to a mobile Web site containing data pertaining to the song and artist.

This is a potentially lucrative move for MTV Networks, which has not only struggled to bring its pop culture influence to the Web but has also fallen from some music fans' favor as its networks increasingly prioritize reality shows. Unlicensed lyrics sites are currently facing incipient copyright scrutiny--not to mention the fact that there's no such thing as a Google Lyrics Search.

Not yet, at least.