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Real bids close to $100 million for Scour.net

As part of its push to become more of a Net media company, RealNetworks is offering to buy the broadband entertainment search site, according to a source familiar with the plan.

As part of its push to become more of a Net media company, RealNetworks is offering to buy broadband entertainment search site Scour.net, according to a source familiar with the plan.

Seattle-based Real has offered close to $100 million for Scour, the source said. The deal is likely to be largely or all in stock.

Scour and Real executives declined comment.

The offer comes as Real is in the process of reinventing itself as more of a media company, rather than as a firm focused solely on streaming software. Just yesterday, Real relaunched its Web site as the Real.com Network, a destination for audio and video content.

It also underscores the degree to which Real has turned itself around in the past year. A high-profile fight with Microsoft in July 1998 led to the software giant divesting its stake in Real, which sent Real's stock into a tailspin.

But demand for audio and video content has increased dramatically over the past year, and Real--which claims that 85 percent of all streaming content on the Web flows through its products--has reaped the benefits. Last month Real posted its first profit, and the company has seen its stock fly since February; earlier today it reached a 52-week high of 141.13.

Scour was founded in 1997 in a dorm at the University of California at Los Angeles by a group of computer science students. In June, Hollywood mogul Michael Ovitz and Yucaipa Companies partner Richard Wolpert bought a controlling stake in the firm. An executive from Yucaipa declined comment.

The potential deal would not represent the first time Real went to the bargaining table with Ovitz and Yucaipa. In September, another Ovitz interest, entertainment e-commerce site CheckOut.com, inked a deal in which it became the premiere music partner and retailer for Real's players.

Scour.net allows users to search for multimedia content, such as audio, video, images, and animation, "including music videos, movie trailers, full-length movies, and more," according to a message on the site.

Real likely would fold Scour's search technology into its RealPlayer 7, RealJukebox, and other software, said Mark Hardie, a senior analyst with Forrester Research.

Scour "will end up being a background component of [Real's] other technology," Hardie said, noting that currently, some of Real's newer technology more closely resembles a browser.

Adding search technology to Real's newer offerings would put Real in even more direct competition with Yahoo, America Online, and Microsoft. Rob Grady, a Real product manager, told Reuters yesterday that because Real's new hub site would focus on audio and video, it would not compete with those firms.

But with the addition of Scour's search capabilities, Real's offerings would be more on par with the likes of Yahoo, which acquired streaming content firm Broadcast.com in March. In August, Yahoo parlayed Broadcast.com into its own offering, Yahoo Digital, which allows users to search for, download, and listen to or watch audio and video content.