RealNetworks Inc., the Seattle-based operator of the Rhapsody digital-music service, is launching in Europe a new radio-centered music service RealMusic. The initiative marks the company's biggest bra

RealNetworks Inc., the Seattle-based operator of the Rhapsody digital music service, is launching in Europe a new radio-centered music operation RealMusic. The initiative marks the company's biggest brand development in Europe.

Initially launching in the United Kingdom before rolling out to other European countries, RealMusic charges customers £8.50 ($15) a month for access to 300 "CD-quality" advertising-free online music-radio stations produced by RealNetworks' European editors. The music is licensed from the four major labels and several independents.

Subscribers can stream roughly 150 genre-based and third-party stations sourced from 15 different music genres. The U.K. third-party stations have been licensed exclusively from U.K. media group Ministry of Sound, DJ Carl Cox and GMG Radio, among others.

Additionally, subscribers can tune in to 150 artist-themed music stations focused on several frontline acts such as Madonna and Coldplay. Each artist station is supported by promotional material such as biographies and album artwork.

Moreover, RealNetworks Europe has gathered "thousands" of free online radio station for its RealMusic customers. The service also provides 4,000 on-demand music videos, licensed from all the majors apart of productions originally made by Sony Music Entertainment before it merged with BMG.

For additional fees, subscribers can buy ringtones and full-track downloads. The downloadable content is protected in the Windows Media Audio digital rights management format and can be transferred to WMA portable players.

In the first half of 2006, RealMusic is expected to roll out to other European markets including Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain.

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