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Music Choice is determined to offer music lovers plenty to look at as they listen. President and CEO David del Beccaro talks about the company’s past, present, and future.

More and more, people are using their TVs as radios. Targeted music channels dot most cable and satellite systems, allowing consumers to fill the house with sound even when there’s nothing on the tube. Horsham-based Music Choice is determined to offer music lovers plenty to look at as they listen. President and CEO David del Beccaro talks about the company’s past, present, and future.

How and when did Music Choice come about?

In the summer of 1987, I, along with my business development team, had General Instrument Corp. conduct market research to determine if digital audio would be a lucrative business for cable operators. GI’s audio engineers begin developing the technology to transmit digital audio over cable system satellites and wires.

The following year, GI built, installed, and tested digital audio tuners in hundreds of consumers’ homes in three cities. At this time, Digital Cable Radio (DCR) provided eight channels of programming. After the success of the market tests, GI was convinced that digital audio was a viable business.

Then in 1990, DCR was launched in the United States as the first digital audio service in the world offered via satellite to cable television subscribers, including 19 music and three simulcast channels.

Several of the nation’s largest cable providers, major record companies, and Microsoft went on to partner with General Instrument to form the private company known as Digital Cable Radio. In the early ’90s, Digital Cable Radio Associates re-branded its audio programming service as Music Choice. By 1994, Music Choice was part of DirecTV’s basic service packages.

Many cable and satellite providers offer music channels. What sets Music Choice’s service apart?

There are a number of companies that offer a similar service, but none offer the same products as Music Choice. We broadcast dozens of non-stop music channels with both a visual and audio component. The TV screens offer content that includes artist photos, song, album, and artist information and facts. Music Choice also offers exclusive music programs and concerts.

Is the service included with the cost of cable, or is it extra?

It’s a free service for digital cable and DirecTV customers. Our concerts are free to cable and DirecTV homes.

In total, how many subscribers do you have now, and how much has that figure changed over the past year?

It reaches more than 34 million homes–95 percent of digital cable and 100 percent of DirecTV homes. Our concerts reach 44 million cable and DirecTV households. We now realize a growth rate of approximately 5 million homes a year.

What are some of your most popular channels?

Our most popular channels include: R&B and Hip Hop, Today’s Country, Classic Rock, ’80s, and ’70s.

Music Choice also offers a music service for brick-and-mortar businesses. How does that work?

Music Choice is distributed to commercial locations through cable multiple system operators and through the DirecTV satellite system.

In addition, we have an established national dealer network that offers digital music programming via the DirecTV satellite platform to brick-and-mortar locations.

The music offering features 47 genres of music, and of those, 10 are programmed specifically for commercial sites. Businesses receive commercial DirecTV programming, including the extensive channel lineup from Music Choice, as well as sports packages.

You recently teamed up with Napster on a pay-download service. How is that going?

We recently introduced Music Choice on broadband to cable providers. We anticipate the launch of the service to cable-modem subscribers this fall. Napster is the first company to sign on with Music Choice to offer both on-demand and catalog downloads.

What are your thoughts on the future of digital music distribution? Will there come a time when there are no more physical music products such as CDs, but only digital files?

We think that digital music distribution will expand over the next 10 years. CDs will be the primary form of distribution for the next five to 10 years. There will come a time when digital files will replace CDs, but not in the foreseeable future. For example, cassettes are still being shipped today, almost 20 years after the introduction of CDs. It will take some time for a majority of consumers to embrace the switch to digital files, with the youth market driving the new technologies.

Can people get the Music Choice service through their computers, or only via television?

Music Choice will be available for cable-modem subscribers later this year. This service will contain exclusive concerts, studio performances, and video interviews taped at either the Music Choice Studio or on location.

The content will be accessible by clicking on the featured artists’ photos displayed on the portal. “Listen to Music Choice” lists the 52 channels of music available for listening.

After choosing a channel, the consumer will not only hear the music they chose, they will also see the artist’s name along with the song and album titles, and, if it’s available, a way to download the song or purchase the album. Consumers can also identify 10 of their favorite channels and store them.

What does Music Choice have planned for the future?

We’ve introduced a new customized music service for digital cable subscribers, My Music Choice, to one market this year, with a nationwide launch planned for later this year.

My Music Choice gives consumers the opportunity to customize music channels for their personal tastes. They are offered thousands of music options to choose from, and their channels are stored on their televisions, along with the pre-programmed channels offered by Music Choice.

Also, Music Choice is evaluating new technologies to take our service mobile. As the cost of storage devices continues to decline and Wi-Fi technologies emerge, Music Choice is preparing to reach mobile devices such as cars, phones, and personal devices.

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