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Circuit City, Napster to Bow Music Service. Movies Next.

23 Apr, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Seeking to expand into the digital age with a marquee partner, Circuit City Stores Inc. April 29 will launch an online music service in association with download pioneer Napster.

The service will officially bow at a special event during the National Association of Recording Merchandisers annual confab through May 2 in Chicago.

The Circuit City + Napster service ( www.circuitcity.com/napster) will give subscribers ($14.95 monthly) streaming access on a PC and compatible portable music player to Napster's play list of more than three million songs.

New subscribers receive the first month free in addition to five free music downloads. Individual songs can be purchased for 99 cents each — similar to Apple's iTunes Music Store — while pre-paid download cards for 15, 25 and 60 songs can be purchased online or at Circuit City's 643 retail locations.

The service debuts as album sales in the United States reportedly are 17% behind last year's depressed figures in part to increased online music purchases and a dearth of major artist releases in the first quarter.

Richmond, Va.-based Circuit City has seen a steady drop in retail music sales, including a double-digit decline in the fourth quarter (ended Feb. 28) that contributed to quarterly loss of $12.2 million.

Irynne MacKay, SVP and general merchandise manager for entertainment at Circuit City, said the service should “inspire” consumers to better enjoy portable music players.

Despite steady retail DVD sales, Circuit City envisions expanding the service to include movie downloads in the future.

“We'll be exploring that, but for now it will be a music service,” said spokesperson Jackie Foreman, via email.

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