SEATTLE, Jan. 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Rhapsody announced its European expansion today through the acquisition of Napster International, the first subscription (flat-rate) music service in Europe. Rhapsody will own and operate the Napster service in Germany and the United Kingdom.

“The acquisition of Napster and its subscriber base in the UK and Germany gives us an ideal entry to the European market,” said Jon Irwin, president, Rhapsody. “Through the benefit of scale, the strength of our editorial programming and strategic partnerships, we can now bring the Napster service to even more consumers on a variety of platforms.”

The news of the acquisition was warmly received among music industry executives across Europe, who have been ardent supporters of Rhapsody and its business model.

“Rhapsody has played a pivotal role defining streaming music services, which are essential to the future of the entire industry,” said Rob Wells, president, global digital business, Universal Music Group. “I welcome Rhapsody’s arrival in Europe, where I am eager to see them duplicate their success attracting paid subscribers in the United States.”

Rhapsody retains all Napster International employees and will operate under the Napster brand in Germany and the UK, where it is widely recognized, based on an independent brand awareness study. Napster subscribers will be migrated to Rhapsody’s infrastructure in March, at which time they will enjoy new features, including a new Web experience and improved speed and performance—while keeping the music libraries they have built.

“We have always been and will continue to be committed to offering music fans the most flexible, comfortable way to consume and discover music – wherever and whenever they want,” said Thorsten Schliesche, general manager, Napster International. “The acquisition is another important milestone. Combining Napster International subscribers with Rhapsody’s massive base in the U.S. will further strengthen our position as the leading music subscription service.”

Napster subscribers will immediately benefit from several improvements to the product. In coming months, consumers will also see enhancements to the Web client and mobile apps, most notably improved offline playback quality and a greater ability to manage playlists.

Rhapsody was the first subscription music service, launched in December 2001. Today, it is the largest premium subscription music service in the United States, with more than 1 million paying subscribers and more than 14 million tracks across nearly 600 genres. The Rhapsody service is available on more than 70 consumer electronic devices, including all smartphone platforms; more than any service of its kind. Rhapsody subscribers also enjoy original editorial content from its staff of the most renowned music writers anywhere, including reviews, features, playlists and more than 200 programmed radio stations.

“This is the perfect time to extend our borders—both geographically and technologically, as we take our service to new places, including the automobile and the living room,” said Irwin. “Consumer demand for subscription music has never been greater, and our partners are eager to bring music to the masses in new and creative ways. There is a lot of room for growth in this market and I firmly believe that 2012 is going to be our biggest year yet.”

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