Some music download services have failed to take off
BSkyB is launching a new music subscription service for internet users in what it claimed is a world first.
The satellite television company, which also offers broadband access, is teaming up with Universal Music to offer digital access to hundreds of thousands of songs for a monthly fee.
Sky said other music industry partners may soon join the service.
The new service will launch late this year but details of subscription prices have not yet been made public.
But BSkyB's chief operating officer Mike Darcey said the aim was to reach the mass market. "Sky already has contact with one in three British homes through our television service," he said, "and we've got plenty of experience of running a subscription model."
Sky claimed the service was a "world first" because of its combination of unlimited streaming, downloads to keep, access to the whole Universal catalogue and the fact that the music can be played on any device.
The legal music downloads market is currently dominated by Apple's iTunes. Other companies have tried to offer subscription services without making much impact.
But BSkyB and Universal believe a service offering unlimited streamed music plus a set number of downloads for a flat monthly fee will prove attractive.
The music will be free of DRM copy protection software, so it will be available to play on any device, including Apple's iPod.
Pavarotti to Girls Aloud
The music industry has been pressing internet service providers to threaten broadband users who engage in file-sharing with disconnection.
No DRM means the music will work on iPods
It has been holding out the promise that ISPs can have a stake in the music business if they co-operate with a crackdown on customers who download copyrighted material.
BSkyB did not say specifically whether it now will be sending warnings to broadband customers who engage in file-sharing, but said that part of the aim of the new service is to ensure that "artists are properly rewarded for their creativity."
Lucian Grainge, chairman and chief executive of Universal Music Group said consumers would welcome a "safe, state-of-the-art service and legal alternative to those services which exploit services without compensation."
Mr Grainge said the service would offer everything "from Pavarotti to Girls Aloud" and would be "a lot more appealing than piracy."
Universal has also teamed up with the mobile phone giant Nokia to offer "Comes with Music", a service offering unlimited music to customers who buy a mobile phone.
But Mr Grainge said the Nokia partnership was aimed at individuals, whereas the joint venture with BSkyB was targeted at families.