Comcast Cable joins RealNetworks in a music service

Comcast Cable, a provider of broadband Internet services, is getting into the music business. Comcast will offer the Rhapsody online music service from RealNetworks to its nearly five million cable subscribers.

The partnership is getting a kickoff that offers all Comcast broadband customers seven days of free access to Rhapsody. The companies will also offer 10 free “burns” of downloaded songs to users who subscribe by the end of the year. The company usually charges 79 cents for each downloaded track.

The move by Comcast exposes Rhapsody to a huge potential customer base. Currently the music service has about 250,000 subscribers at about $10 a month. Rhapsody differs from Apple’s popular iTunes service because it is designed as a broadband service for music listening rather than for purchasing and downloading music files. Downloads cost extra to subscribers.

RealNetworks said their subscribers listen to an average of more than 100 songs a month. The songs come from a digital library of 30,000 albums of music provided by all five major music companies and more than 200 other labels. Rhapsody is not being offered as part of Comcast’s bundle of services, and Comcast will not handle billing for RealNetworks.

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