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MTV bundles sites

Butterworth tops new interactive music banner

MTV Networks Online said Monday it will take its music-oriented Web sites, including its yet-to-launch Buggles Project, and fold them into a newly formed MTV Interactive music banner.

Former SonicNet prexy Nicholas Butterworth will head the venture as prexy and CEO.

Based in New York, MTVi will oversee such properties as VH1.com, MTV.com and SonicNet.com, as well as the Buggles Project, a digital music downloading delivery venture that SonicNet is helping incorporate into MTV’s sites this fall. VH1.com is expected to relaunch in October.

MTVi will employ more than 200 people to oversee the sites.

‘Significant growth’ ahead

Butterworth will pursue new product innovations and online partnerships and integrate the properties through its cable channels in an effort to expand MTVi’s portfolio.

“This is not just a reorganization but the creation of a new company,” Butterworth told Daily Variety. “There has never been a more exciting time for the online music industry. By combining SonicNet and Imagine Radio with MTV.com and VH1.com, our new company offers a great experience to every fan on the ‘Net. We are well-positioned for significant growth.”

Butterworth will report directly to Fred Seibert, prexy of MTV Networks Online and chairman of MTVi.

“Nicholas has been a visionary and an innovator in the online music industry since its inception,” Seibert said.

SonicNet, which MTV acquired in May as part of a deal with Liberty Media, offers news, downloadable music and video. As part of the deal, Liberty Media purchased a 10% stake in MTV Networks Online.

‘Net merchandise

Set to launch in the coming months, the Buggles Project will eventually sell compact discs and other merchandise over the Internet. Later, it plans to offer music for digital distribution as the technology improves. Once launched, it will be the “key engine driving our new offerings,” Butterworth said.

MTV will continue to operate its other sites under the Nickelodeon Online banner, which includes Web sites for nick.com, nickjr.com, nick-at-nite.com, tvland.com, noggin.com and redrocket.com.

“We think there is great value in forming a company that includes three of the Internet’s best music sites,” said Tom Freston, chairman and CEO of MTV Networks. “We are giving music fans a much more personalized music experience because we are building a business that can easily support an exponential number of music brands, both domestically and internationally.”

$300 mil in promotion

Freston has said that MTV’s online properties, including those under the MTVi banner, will be promoted across the cabler’s television networks through a $300 million promotion over the next five years.

MTV recently inked an exclusive agreement with Rioport to provide digital downloaded music across all of its Web properties.

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