Time Warner Cable Is Taking On on iTunes

Time Warner Cable is pitching broadband customers on an alternative to Apple's iTunes Music Store, with two music-subscription services that provide access to more than 3 million songs and music videos.

The operator's Road Runner Music service — currently compatible only with Windows computers — includes unlimited access to songs, ad-free radio and music videos for $9.95 per month. The second service, Road Runner Music Portable, allows subscribers to play that content on up to three portable media players for an additional $5 per month.

“These enhanced music products offer superb functionality and a solid value for our customers,” said Steve Cook, Time Warner Cable's group vice president of Road Runner and high-speed online services, in a statement. “We are pleased to offer our customers music products that are convenient and easy to use both in the home and on the go.”

Time Warner Cable had 7.2 million residential high-speed data customers as of the end of June.

The operator is offering the service through a deal with New York-based MediaNet Digital, which provides white-label technologies for music and video download services. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Besides iTunes, the service will compete with Rhapsody, the music-subscription service run by RealNetworks that in August was merged into a joint venture with MTV Networks. Rhapsody sells music subscriptions to download songs to PCs and portable music devices, and eventually to mobile phones through an exclusive deal with Verizon Wireless.

Road Runner Music will offer content for the U.S. market from the major music labels — EMI Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group — plus thousands of independent labels.

The files will be available in Microsoft Windows Media format and will use Microsoft's digital-rights management technology to impose playback restrictions.

MusicNet will provide Time Warner Cable with a branded, downloadable media player and Web-based client for browsing the content catalog. Synacor, which provides Internet tools, portals and content for cable and telecommunications service providers, is handling billing and authentication, coordination of branding elements, training and marketing support, and quality assurance for Road Runner Music.

Other service providers that offer music-subscription services through MediaNet include RCN, WideOpenWest, Broadstripe (formerly Millennium Digital Media) and Knology.