In a bid to rival Apple's market-dominating iTunes Store, Viacom's MTV division is reportedly set to announce today that it is merging its online digital-music offerings into a joint venture with RealNetworks
, the company that runs the Rhapsody subscription digital-music service.
Rhapsody currently offers unlimited song downloads for a $13 monthly fee. Like other subscription services, when users stop paying their membership fee, they can no longer access its stocked music. The pact with RealNetworks likely means the end of MTV's "Urge" digital music service, which was launched in partnership with Microsoft last year, only to be promptly forgotten post the launch of the Zune player and Zune Marketplace.
MTV plans to promote the service heavily on its television channels to get a broader reach. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the new venture will feature mobile content, which will be distributed by Verizon Wireless, and will also have MTV-provided editorial content, including music blogs. MTV has scheduled a news conference concerning online music for later today, but company representatives declined to comment on the Wall Street Journal's report.