A Real online movie service

RealNetworks is teaming with Starz Encore Group LLC to launch a broadband-based online movie subscription service that will allow users to download movies and watch them on their computers or TVs.

The service, dubbed Starz On Demand, is set to premiere in the second quarter of 2003 and will offer users more than 100 unique movie titles a month. Although pricing has yet to be set, Real said that the users will be offered movies similar to those available on Starz On Demand on digital cable for a low monthly fee.

The deal will allow the media delivery company to garner support for its technologies and grow its presence on the Web. Movies will be downloaded and played using the RealOne Player and encoded in RealVideo 9. Additionally, the companies will use Real's digital rights management technologies to prevent copyright infringement.

"We see today's announcement as a great step for both our companies and for the entire broadband industry. Now the industry can distribute its valuable programming in new and innovative ways," Rob Glaser, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of RealNetworks said in a statement.

While on-demand video services represent one of the more exciting applications promised to broadband users, the slow up-tick in broadband growth has kept the services from really taking off.

Still, companies are positioning themselves for a broadband explosion, saying that services like on-demand video will spur high-speed Internet growth. Last month five major U.S. movie studios launched another online movie subscription service, Movielink LLC. Movielink allows users to download movies via both the RealPlayer and Microsoft's Media Player, giving both rivals a shot at proliferating their players.

Real is hoping that its alliance with Starz Encore and the success of its online media subscription service RealOne SuperPass will give it a leg up, however.

In related news, Wednesday also marked the first anniversary of RealOne SuperPass and the company is offering consumers a two-day free trial, available at http://www.realone.com.

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Scarlet Pruitt

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