LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Times newspaper is to offer digital subscribers free premium access to popular music streamlining service Spotify to attract new readers and persuade existing customers to upgrade their subscription package.
Rupert Murdoch's Times and Sunday Times newspapers were among the first in Britain to make consumers pay for access to their online content, seeking to offset falling print circulations and volatile advertising markets.
Publisher News UK said on Friday that the papers' 153,000 online subscribers and some of the 207,000 print customers who also have digital access could take up the Spotify offer if they renewed or upgraded to its top annual news package costing more than 300 pounds ($490).
News UK has already used video packages, including action from English soccer's Premier League, to encourage online take-up of The Times and The Sun. Mass-market tabloid The Sun signed up more than 100,000 digital subscribers in the four months after it introduced an online paywall in August.
News UK has sought new content deals since Mike Darcey, a former executive from Murdoch's pay-TV group BSkyB, took over. The company said that its Spotify agreement marked the first time the 20 million-song streaming service had done a deal with a media owner anywhere in the world.
Mobile operator Vodafone agreed a deal last year to offer Spotify to customers who upgrade to the telecoms company's faster and more expensive 4G service.
Spotify itself expanded its free content - with advertisements - from desktop computer users to those on smartphones and tablets in December and has about 24 million active users around the world. Of these, six million pay for the ad-free premium service.
News UK's Chief Marketing Officer Katie Vanneck-Smith said the link-up is tailored to readers' preferences and would add value for the newspapers' existing membership base and help to attract new subscribers.
(Reporting By Costas Pitas; Editing by Kate Holton and David Goodman)