Over a year since we saw caught the first glimpse of its Jukebox, embedded in its (then) freshly designed homepage, Indiatimes*, the Internet and mobile division of the Times of India Group, is gearing up to launch its music portal. The landing page is up, and Indiatimes CEO Rishi Khiani told MediaNama that the product is set to launch next month. He declined to comment any further on plans.

We haven’t been able to ascertain exactly what is planned, but sources some say that the Indiatimes Music might be a subscription based service, while still others suggest that it will be an advertising driven model. Now in a market which has a number of online music streaming services, it will be difficult for Indiatimes to adopt a subscription route, unless the music is DRM free, which is unlikely to be approved by Indian labels; We’re not sure of how well Hungama has done with its DRM protected monthly subscription plan, but when there is a better product (pirated DRM free music), it’s unlikely that consumers will choose subscription. The free live streaming music services offer consumers easy discovery and immediate gratification.

Now, there are a couple of things that Indiatimes Music can look at, if it is choosing the advertising route:

– Radio Mirchi tie-up: while Indiatimes itself tends to operate in silos, the divide separating it from sister company Radio Mirchi has been bridged once in the past, when the two partnered to offer Radio Mirchi on Mobile in partnership with Spice Digital. There was a plan to incorporate advertising then. Perhaps Radio Mirchi could partner with Indiatimes to sell advertising packages online.

– Online audio ad network: a number of companies are offering music streaming online: Rediff, In.com, Saregama and Saavn. We’re not sure if this is technologically possible or not, but it might help to offer scale of usage and location specific ads to advertisers, across multiple channels.

– Mobile Conversions: As we had mentioned last year, there is clear synergy between Indiatimes Music and its mobile 58888 business. Indiatimes could look to drive subscriptions to Caller Tunes (CRBT) across operators, and promote its Radio Mirchi Mobile Radio (on RCOM and Airtel). This is a revenue stream for Rediff’s mobile search business, where it allows consumers to also buy wallpapers. We’re not sure if there’s a mobile Internet component to this yet.

P.s.: looks like Indiatimes has figured out how to block our access to its “work in progress” portals. We tried, but no screenshots. What I do remember seeing, is a rather spiffy, almost iTunes like interface a few months ago.

*Disclosure: Indiatimes is an advertiser with MediaNama

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