MySpace could develop digital music player

SAN FRANCISCO Fri Nov 7, 2008 6:13am EST

MySpace Chief Executive Chris DeWolfe speaks at the Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco, October 17, 2007. REUTERS/Kimberly White

MySpace Chief Executive Chris DeWolfe speaks at the Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco, October 17, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Kimberly White

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - MySpace, the popular online social network owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, could develop a digital music player in the future, pitting it against Apple Inc's hot-selling iPod.

But there are no immediate plans to make or sell such a device, MySpace co-founder and Chief Executive Chris DeWolfe said at a conference in San Francisco on Thursday.

"It's possible" that MySpace, which recently launched a music joint venture with major music labels, could eventually build a device for listening to music, DeWolfe said in response to a question from conference host John Battelle.

"Right now, we're just focusing on the service," DeWolfe said at the Web 2.0 summit.

MySpace, the largest online social networking site, launched MySpace Music in September, aiming to become the ultimate one-stop for music fans.

The joint venture between MySpace and major music labels such as Sony BMG Music, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group lets people access a range of new music services, including streaming, music and ringtone downloads, videos, ticketing and merchandising.

McDonald's, Sony Pictures, Toyota and State Farm are advertising sponsors of the site.

"We wanted to come up with a program that meets the needs of music companies and artists, by definition, and users," DeWolfe said.

People streamed music more than 1 billion times in the first few days and have created 80 million playlists since the launch, DeWolfe said. Five million bands upload their music to the site.

Music companies have been keen on another major player to boost sales by driving competition to iTunes -- Apple's digital music store and the top U.S. music retailer -- even as CD sales have fallen in recent years.

MYSPACE VS ITUNES

Warner Music Group Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman said MySpace was different from iTunes in its focus on "community and sharing." People can share playlists, peruse their friends' music choices and discover new songs that way, Bronfman said at the conference.

Apple too has recently started "Genuis," which builds playlists and offers recommendations based on songs in a person's iTunes library.

But DeWolfe said the "Genius" feature doesn't make iTunes a competitor to MySpace Music because Apple continues to focus on selling their music devices.

"If anything, we'll be accretive to iPod sales" as people use MySpace Music to download more music and videos for their iPods, DeWolfe said. "Unless we develop a device," he added.

While remote at this point, it would be an audacious move for MySpace, which practically defined the burgeoning social network concept as a business.

MySpace, which News Corp bought for $580 million in 2005, has proven a particular bright spot for Murdoch's international media conglomerate, even as the company faces a tough 2009 because of falling advertising revenue in other parts of its business.

The site faces increasing competition from networks such as the privately-held Facebook, as they all struggle to find new ways to make money from the millions of people who interact with each other through their online profiles.

(Additional reporting by Robert MacMillan in New York; Editing by Anshuman Daga)

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