BBC Preparing to Take on iTunes

Watch out, iTunes: The BBC’s getting into the online music game, and with a unique twist in mind.

BBC Worldwide has revealed plans to launch an Internet-based music download service in competition with Apple. The store will feature tunes from the BBC’s archives with the option to pay to download or pay less to “rent” — meaning the track would be downloaded with a temporary lifespan. The service will also let you stream anything in its entirety for free, if you don’t mind pre-, post- and mid-roll advertisements. All purchased and downloaded content will be DRM-free and is expected to run about 79p (USD$.89) per track.

The interesting thing here is the service will actually offer something new compared to its competitors. Rather than standard album tracks, the catalog will be made up of live performances that have aired on the BBC over the years — anything from “Top of the Pops” to various music festivals and radio or TV specials. Some will even date back to the 70s-era “Old Grey Whistle Test”, a program that had performances ranging from John Lennon to the Eagles.

A beta version is expected to debut in November with a full launch following early next year. The name of the service has not yet been decided.