Real's Rhapsody Now Available on TiVo

Following through with a partnership first announced last January, RealNetworks and MTV said Tuesday that their Rhapsody music service will soon be available through TiVo set-top boxes. TiVo subscribers will be able to browse and stream songs and movies on demand from Rhapsody.

The deal is part of a broader initiative by Real to expand Rhapsody's presence in the media industry in hopes of gaining some ground on market leader Apple's iTunes. The company recently sold a stake in Rhapsody to MTV, creating a new joint venture. Real previously also forged partnerships with Nokia and Reingcom, the maker of iRiver music players.

In return, TiVo is able to further expand its catalog of services offered to subscribers and justify its monthly cost, which is quite high compared to standard DVR offerings from cable providers. TiVo is aiming to become the "universal entertainment provider in the living room," and is slowly bolstering its capabilities beyond recording TV shows. The company struck a deal with Amazon for movie downloads earlier this year.

The Rhapsody service will be free for TiVo customers for a period of 30-days, after which it will run $12.99 per month. No content can be downloaded and stored on the TiVo box, which may reduce the feature's usefulness. However, customers can simply load up thousands of Internet radio stations via Rhapsody if they don't want to spend time picking songs.

Customers can browse charts of Rhapsody's most popular artists, albums and songs, and view weekly lists of new releases. Song ratings can be submitted using the TiVo remote's Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down buttons. Rhapsody will also provide recommendations based on musical tastes.

Existing Rhapsody subscribers that have content stored on their PC will be able to load up and stream music and videos to their television via TiVo. There is no limit to the amount of songs or videos that can be played.

The new Rhapsody feature will be delivered to TiVo customers via a software update, which will work with Series2, Series3 and the new TiVo HD boxes. A broadband Internet connection is required, of course, and those interested can sign up to be the first upgraded on TiVo's Web site.

"This is a nice win, for both TiVo and Rhapsody and there's more to this one than 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'," remarked JupiterResearch vice president Michael Gartenberg. "For TiVo, it's a nice way to keep differentiating their offering from the free STBs that consumers can get from their Cable and Sat providers. For Rhapsody, it's another way to extend their service beyond the PC to the living room (those TiVo's are hooked up to nice HiDef screens and nice surround sound systems)."

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