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Tech Industry

RealNetworks shares surge to 52-week high

Shares of RealNetworks Inc. (Nasdaq: RNWK) got a boost Monday from the latest release of its flagship software.

The maker of software for Web streaming media rose to 149 3/4, far above the stock's 52-week high of 135 1/16, before settling to a close of 139, a gain of 4 for the session. RealNetworks released RealPlayer 7, redesigned its Real.com Web site and released Take 5, a personalized programming service.

The Real.com Network will feature a daily menu of news and entertainment content accessible only through its RealPlayer 7, the latest version of its software for playing audio and video over the Internet.

Content for the daily menu, known as Real.com Take 5, will be selected by a team of editors from audio and video provided by more than 100 media companies, including companies such as ABC News and the BBC and Internet-only companies such as Quokka for sports and Atom Films for entertainment, RealNetworks said.

``Until now, there hasn't been a single place for people to easily access the best and most compelling programming on the Internet," said Tom Frank, chief operating officer of Seattle-based RealNetworks.

The basic version of the new software will be free, like all RealNetworks programs, and a premium edition will be sold for $29.95, the company said. Beta test versions are available immediately, with the final versions to follow within about four months.

Peter Ausnit, an analyst at Volpe Brown Whelan, reiterated his "buy" recommendation on the stock Monday.

"We believe that these changes reflect growing sophistication at RealNetworks about the best ways to monetize the company's brand awareness," he said in a research note.

Last quarter, Real Networks topped analysts' estimates by a penny a share, earning $4.4 million, or 5 cents a share, on sales of $34.9 million.

First Call consensus expects it to earn 5 cents a share in the fourth quarter and 9 cents a share in the fiscal year.

The stock fell to a 52-week low of 16 1/8 in December.

All 18 analysts tracking the stock rate it either a "buy" or "strong buy."