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MTV tunes up lyrics search

Network to launch multiplatform initiative

MTV Networks is launching a major multiplatform initiative tied to music lyrics — just as publishers step up their efforts to thwart websites that illegally offer up the words to songs.

Key to the effort is a plan to begin offering extensive lyric search capabilities on the websites of all three major MTV music brands — MTV, VH1 and CMT. MTV Nets also plans to offer mobile phone-based lyric searches and eventually extend the search function to older titles next year via VH1Classic.com.

Company has pacted with Gracenote, which has rights deals in place with most major publishers.

MTV Nets wouldn’t discuss financial specifics, but this much is clear: Publishers will be compensated when consumers call up their lyrics, something that doesn’t happen with the scores of unauthorized sites.

What’s more, MTVN’s sites won’t just serve up song lyrics. A search for the words “gimme more” would yield not only the words to Britney Spears’ song of the same name but also videos, MTV News stories, videos and a way to buy Spears’ CDs.

“The search for the lyric is just a path for the user to experience more content,” MTVN Music Group exec VP of digital media Courtney Holt told Daily Variety.

“It’s one part of a larger picture,” Holt added. “I’m trying to create a deeper engagement with music for our viewers.”

With music publishers beginning to crack down on unauthorized lyrics sites, MTV Nets appears to be setting itself up to become a leading authorized supplier of song lyrics. It’s betting that the coin spent for the rights to those lyrics will be more than offset by increased traffic to its websites and viewership of its on-air networks.

Cross-platform effort will first be felt on-air next month, when MTV rechristens its usual “Spankin’ New Music Week” as the “Spankin’ New Lyrics Week.”

VH1, meanwhile, will spotlight lyrics on its “Boxset” skein, while CMT is planning to let viewers sound off on-air about the meaning of their favorite country songs.

Lyrics are also expected to be a key ingredient in MTV Nets’ new cross-network revival of “Name That Tune” (Daily Variety, Oct. 23).

“By tightly linking lyrics with video and other curated programming, we’re doing what no one else can in a way that strengthens the emotional connections so many of us have with our favorite songs,” said MTVN Music & Logo Group prexy Van Toffler.

Programmers are still working on specifics about how lyrics will be included in on-air programs. And every song won’t be available, at least not at first: About 500,000 titles are expected at launch, with more added throughout 2008.

“We’re going to get as close to comprehensive as we can,” Holt said. “It’s going to get there over time.”

Exec said music labels and publishers will benefit from MTV’s lyrics push.

“It’s another opportunity for them to expose these great songs to a broader audience,” he said.