BT have announced plans to offer a music streaming service to their customers, although these plans seem a bit vague as it doesn’t know when or exactly what the service would look like.

Is this just positioning with the UK government so that it looks like BT is making a positive effort to drive consumers towards legitimate services? This would be understandable in a context where ISP’s are under pressure to do more to prevent illegal downloading by shutting off access to websites providing uncleared material.

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that this is a genuine initiative. From a deal-making point of view they face some familiar hurdles. Firstly it is notoriously difficult to get clearance for this kind of service from content owners – both record labels and publishers. The complexities and delays involved in agreeing issues like pricing and guarantees drove Virgin Media to abandon its plans to set up its own streaming service and instead do a deal with Spotify to host their service. BT would face similar issues.

Secondly BT would face challenges negotiating for the attention of its own audience in relation to such a service. Technology companies like BT are not naturals at creating content-led services for consumers – the slow progress of BT Vision attests to this. It is as though they need someone else to provide a “managed service” to craft a content offering, leaving BT free to market the service to its customers.

So, whichever way you look at it, there is a long way between BT saying it wants to develop a music service, and such a service being successfully launched.