Internet social network MySpace launches its French site this week as part of a broader move into Europe via local language sites to attract more users.
MySpace, which lets members look up friends' blogs and songs posted by their favorite artists, has been running a beta site in France for several months. The site officially goes live on Thursday, a spokesman for the company said on Tuesday.
France is important for MySpace, where it competes against rivals such as Skyblog — part of a larger company called Orbus that is majority owned by Axa Private Equity.
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Skyblog, which grew out of a French rap radio station, has been working on English, Spanish and German blogging services to compete with its rival online communities in France.
According to latest data from comScore Media Metrix, which measures Internet traffic, Skyblog had 7 million unique visitors in France in November, compared with 1.3 million for MySpace.
However, its French market dominance does not carry through globally. Skyblog had 13.2 million unique users in November worldwide versus 82.6 million for MySpace, said comScore.
France becomes MySpace's second officially live country site behind the UK, which with 6.9 million unique users in November ranks as the online network's most popular European market.
In Germany, MySpace's beta site has more than 2.4 million monthly unique users and is expected to launch in a few weeks.
An Italian site should be live within a couple of months, the spokesman added. MySpace's Ireland site is still in beta mode.
MySpace, bought by media giant News Corp. (NWS) for $580 million in 2005, is looking to boost its global network of users via international expansion, mobile and video-related content.
"In terms of international expansion there will be a lot of activity in Europe this year," the MySpace spokesman said.
In October, News Corp.'s billionaire chief Rupert Murdoch announced the service's Japan launch this year via a tie-up with local Web and telecom conglomerate Softbank Corp.
However, competition is intense between incumbents and start-ups in a market where business models change fast and companies are trying to cash in on the fast-growing market of Web-based video advertising.
Major players like YouTube Inc., the popular online video sharing site acquired by Google Inc. (GOOG) for $1.65 billion in stock, recently announced plans to launch a service for wireless devices within a year.
Other projects in the pipeline include a video site to compete with YouTube which the Wall Street Journal said was being created by News Corp's Fox, Viacom Inc. (VIA), CBS Corp. (CBS) and NBC Universal.
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