MTV will join the throng offering digital music online when it launches a music download service in 2004.

MTV chief Tom Freston told Reuters: "The service will debut within the first half of next year. It will compete with iTunes and everyone else."

Inside Digital Media analyst Phil Leigh said: "There's no doubt MTV is a strong brand, with a strong profile of viewers. But it can't rely solely on its brand come next year.

“After iTunes launched in April, MTV should have been like a hawk on a field mouse."

Within three-and-a-half days of the release of iTunes for Windows in October, Apple claimed that one million Windows users downloaded iTunes software and that a million songs were sold.