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2 labels invest in China wireless firm

Warner Music and Sony BMG do a deal with a maker of software to send music to phones.

January 24, 2007|From the Associated Press

Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group Corp. said Tuesday that they had made investments in a company operating in China that develops technology for distributing music downloads and other content to mobile phones.

The record companies declined to disclose how much they had invested in Access China Media Solutions, formed in early 2006 as a joint venture between Tokyo-based Access Co. and Seattle-based digital media firm Melodeo Inc.

Access China Media aims to distribute Melodeo's technology to wireless carriers and handset makers in China and other markets in Asia.

The company makes software through which mobile phone users can dial up ring tones, listen to streams of audio or download full-length songs.

"Those are the platforms we're hoping to launch with some of the operator partners," said Thomas Hesse, president of global digital business for Sony BMG. "The fact that you've got the music companies supporting this, we believe, is going to strengthen the chance of those platforms being successful."

The music rivals' investment also gives them some say in how the technology works and, perhaps most importantly, may help protect their recording artists' music from unauthorized copying.

"We're definitely going to advise the company with respect to both [digital rights management] and also the consumer experience on the platform," said Michael Nash, senior vice president of digital strategy and business development for Warner Music Group.

Although mobile phone networks are more secure than the Internet, record labels are keen to keep the piracy they have experienced on the Web from becoming a problem on wireless systems.

Access' offerings include a digital rights management system to prevent content distributed over mobile phones from being copied without permission.

To date, the joint venture has closed a deal with only one cellphone network operator, Singapore's MobileOne Ltd.

Sony BMG and Warner Music, both based in New York, have had licensing deals in place to sell digital music in China's mobile market.

While the Chinese ring-tone market is growing, the record companies are eager to expand their content offerings.

"This is next-generation. This is really very much about full-track [downloads] and mobile-casting," or distributing podcasts to cellphones, Nash said.

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