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In tune online

Web-based music channels continue to be a hit with consumers, and two of the major Internet portals are getting into the act in a big way.

When its redesigned Web site is launched in August, Viacom's will stream up to 45 channels of music, advertisements and promotions, programmed by producers across the country and representing virtually every type of music.

In the fall, AOL Time Warner will begin streaming more than 50 channels of music programming as part of its AOL 7.0 portal software. Radio@AOL will offer traditional radio features, programming from a variety of record label partners and integrated retail offerings.

Both services will be optimized for RealNetworks and Microsoft Windows Media players.

Nicholas Butterworth, president and CEO of the MTVi Group, recognizes the seemingly insatiable desire for online music and is confident that online MTV fans will find one or more radio channels to their liking. That's important, he says, when you are trying to keep users from moving on to another site.

"We think we can provide compelling content that's as good as any radio station on the Web," he says, "but we're not here to compete with them. Our goal with these channels is to provide more features for our Web-site users."

Aside from popular-music clips, the new channels, Butterworth says, allow MTV to tap into unusual interests that might not be satisfied with a commercial radio-station site. The new channels will also provide a new promotional vehicle for on-air MTV events, such as the Video Music Awards, held in September, and other shows.