The French ISPs are amongst the most innovative in terms of services provided mostly because Free has been pushing them forward for quite a few years. But this time it seems Neuf has taken a step forward that Free has not yet taken, namely the inclusion of a music download offer in their 30EUR/month package. There’s an article on the WSJ about this entitled Neuf Cegetel, Universal Music offer downloads.
Basically, what it comes down to is that any subsriber to Neuf Cegetel’s 29.99 EUR/month 100% Neuf Box offer (around 1 million subscribers to this day) will pick a musical genre amongst nine available (French pop, pop, rock, disco-funk, world, electro-dance, rap-RnB, jazz-blues or classical). In that genre, they will benefit from unlimited downloads. If they want access to all the genres, they will have to pay an additional 4.99 EUR per month.
The deal is done with Universal, a subsidiary of the Vivendi group which owns a majority share in Neuf Cegetel. Only Universal titles will be available, 150.000, the press release says, as well as 3.000 videos. The system is strongly DRM-ed, with limits on the number of computers the titles can be used on and the models of music players they are compatible with. Obviously, the DRM will block access to the content if the customer leaves Neuf and he/she will need to update the rights by connecting his device to the Neuf service each month. The DRM used is Microsoft’s and the compression format is WMA.
It’s an interesting move and while I’m not certain it will do much for Neuf’s acquisition figures, it’s likely to generate a little extra ARPU. After all, 5 EUR/month for all you can eat music is a pretty good bargain if you ignore the attached strings. Universal is rumoured to earn a percentage on each subscription, although it’s unclear whether it’s only subscriptions to the music service or to the 100% Neuf Box sans extra music as well. One major flaw in the plan though is the choice of wma which makes this incompatible with iPods. Not surprising considering Universal’s recent declarations regarding iTunes, but still potentially crippling.
In the wake of this, Orange has announced that they were working on a music service that would be much broader and comprehensive. Free has not commented but have been rumoured for a while to be working on a TV-based free gaming service…