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SBC stakes Web video start-up

The company takes a small stake in San Francisco-based Net audio and video company Burst.com, with hopes of finding a technology that will help improve streaming media.

SBC Communications has taken a small stake in San Francisco-based Net audio and video company Burst.com, with hopes of finding a technology that will help improve streaming media.

The telephone giant's venture capital arm will invest $5 million in the start-up, which has created technology it says improves on traditional streaming media such as that inside Real Media or Windows Media.

That doesn't necessarily mean Burst will find its way into SBC's network down the road--but the two companies now see this as a good possibility.

"We can't say it definitely will, and we can't say it definitely won't," said Bill Noble, an SBC spokesman. "But we do feel that the technology could be a key step in defining the highest quality audio and video."

The investment is one of the first times SBC has stepped outside its own corporate doors to dabble in Net video technology. Peers such as US West have looked at other broadband technology companies such as Intertainer or Time Domain.

Burst's technology modifies the way ordinary streaming media delivers data in a way the company says makes video and audio far more reliable online.

Instead of delivering a constant stream of data to a computer, the company's technology sends large "bursts" of information one at a time. The Web surfer can play back the file normally, but the bursts allow a clearer, less choppy picture.

SBC Venture Capital will take more than 850,000 shares of the start-up, and will receive a seat on the company's board of directors.