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24-hour radio program planned for Net

Netcast will provide 12 channels of 24-hour-a-day live audio programming on the Internet this fall.

Starting this fall, a new service from startup Netcast will provide 12 channels of 24-hour-a-day live audio programming, including music, news, talk, corporate announcements, and concerts.

Scheduled to be formally announced this week, Netcast will require a free, proprietary browser client that will provide access to the programming as well as visual and textual information intended to supplement the audio programming.

"Our browser is not a full-function browser," Netcast president and CEO Jim Butterworth said. "It's there to facilitate our multimedia content. For example, if you're listening to an R.E.M. song, the browser points to various Web sites and allows users to view fan club info, tour dates, and band bios."

Netcast will require at least a 28.8-kbps modem connection to the Net but will be able to run concurrently with another web browser, Butterfield added.

Netcast hopes to one-up both traditional broadcasting and existing Internet-based radio with the inclusion of the synchronized visual content. The service will compete, however, with at least two other Web radio sites: AudioNet, which provides live feeds of several dozen radio stations, plus a daily staple of live sports and music events, and Pseudo Online Network, which provides audio programming plus videoconferencing and Internet relay chat.

Like many free online publications, Netcast will charge only for advertising. The company says it will be able to deliver precise demographic information about its listeners because they must register to download the free browser. Butterworth said information about individual subscribers, however, will not be released either to content providers or advertisers.