Napster relaunch put back to 2002

Cunning move to steal limelight...

Cunning move to steal limelight...

Napster has craftily pushed its re-launch back to 2002 in a bid to steal the limelight from rivals Pressplay and MusicNet. Ostensibly, the delay is designed to give it time to strike deals with larger record labels, but it is really a cunning ploy by Bertelsmann AG - the owner of Napster - to avoid the glut of online launches before Christmas 2001. According to research company Jupiter MMXI, this will allow it to make a grand late entrance to the market. Mark Mulligan, music analyst at Jupiter, said: "Napster's brand is the leader in online music. It's no big surprise that Napster has delayed its launch. Pressplay and MusicNet want the limelight on themselves. "The two glaring absences in Napster's CV are Vivendi and Sony," Mulligan added. "It's difficult to see how either of those will be bought on board by next year as they've taken Napster to court and are now launching Pressplay." Six weeks after the file swapping service had been hounded offline for ignoring copyright law, Napster held a whopping 4.7 per cent of the total global internet audience for the month of August, according to Jupiter research. Mulligan believes this made Napster the most popular music destination on the net and that music site mp3.com only had 1.5 per cent of a reach for the same month. None of the major labels even registered. Napster has a deal with MusicNet - the company backed by Bertelsmann, AOL Time Warner, EMI, RealNetworks and Zomba Records - that will allow premium rate Napster subscribers to access its catalogues. However, the deal is loaded on MusicNet's side and may be cancelled if Napster tries to get any other major record labels on board. It is not known how Bertelsmann will balance the distribution of its music label BMG between Napster and MusicNet.