Today in “looks good on the business pages, will probably look lousy on the balance sheet” news: AT&T has entered into an agreement with Napster where users will be able to download songs from the troubled digital-music vendor’s library to their phones. What could possibly be wrong with it? (Do you really have to guess?)
Well, first of all, the songs will cost $1.99 each, or $7.49 for five–i.e., a 50-100% markup over what users can pay for downloading songs off iTunes and Amazon, not to mention Sprint’s over-the-air download service. (Although apparently AT&T’s director of premium content, Rob Hyatt, isn’t too worried about the price, given that the next generation of music fans is what he likes to call “very price insensitive,” which I read as “they stick their parents with the cell-phone bill, or just don’t pay it at all.” Not that I have any experience with that sort of behavior!) And it probably goes without saying that the songs won’t be available on the iPhone–i.e., the most popular reason for consumers to switch to AT&T these days–but the company hasn’t announced which devices the service will work with. I’d think that announcing specifics on that front would be an important aspect when announcing a deal in a splashy, Monday-business-section way, if only because this is probably the one chance said agreement has to prick the consciousness before it gets hidden somewhere deep in the AT&T Wireless Web site.