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Real takes charge in subscription software

In a continuing bid to become the front-runner for paid online programming, RealNetworks unveils software that lets content producers charge for their online media.

In its ongoing effort to become the torchbearer for paid online programming, RealNetworks on Tuesday unveiled software that allows content producers to charge fees for their online media.

The software, called RBN Managed Subscription Service, lets content producers create their own subscription services. It also enables producers to manage online billing and create different viewing methods, such as pay-per-view, rental or bulk subscriptions. RealNetworks will host the video and/or audio streams through its Real Broadcast Network service.

A m?lange of content providers have signed up for the service: SoapCity, which streams on-demand audio episodes of the dramas "The Young and the Restless" and "Days of Our Lives"; Campus Crusade for Christ and Cutting Edge International, which stream audio and video to train Christian pastors worldwide; and Post Time Technologies, which streams video for the thoroughbred horse racing industry.

RealNetworks intends to target "radio and TV broadcasters, syndicators, cable networks, music labels and studios" with the service, Nagesh Pabbisetty, vice president of RealNetworks' Real Broadcast Network, said in a statement.

During the past few years, RealNetworks has been shifting away from its original business of developing media-playback software. Instead, it has focused its efforts on RealOne, a subscription video service that partners with major content providers such as CNN, and Major League Baseball. RealOne is borrowing a page from the cable television world where content providers are paid by RealNetworks and often take a cut from subscription revenue. CNET Networks, the publisher of, is a RealOne partner.

As online advertising remains in the doldrums, online media companies are figuring out ways to charge audiences for content. Web giant Yahoo has been testing the waters for a similar service to RealOne after some high-profile content providers such as ended their deals with the portal.

In the same vein, big name content providers have seen their clout increase and have demanded more from the portals. Historically, Web sites aggregated content and promised traffic in return for content. Now, content providers are asking for direct payment, which broadens the appeal for online subscription services.

Still, RealNetworks continues to face mounting pressure from Microsoft, which has integrated its Windows Media technologies into its operating system. Microsoft has also been doggedly courting content providers to endorse Windows Media as their multimedia technology of choice.