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CBS and RealNetworks Offer up Big Brother Subscriptions

CBS (www.cbs.com) and RealNetworks ( www.realnetworks.com) announced on Thursday that they would be offering a pay-to-view live 24/7 streaming video of the "Big Brother 2" house as part of RealNetworks' GoldPass subscription service.

The four live camera feeds, which surfers can switch between as desired, will be free until Sunday, July 8. After that, fans must pay either for GoldPass at $9.95 per month (which includes all other GoldPass programming) or for CBS Big Brother 2 for $19.95 for the duration of the show. The only free content will be canned video highlights.

"The online community played such a vital role in the popularity of the first installment of this convergence television program," said David Katz, vice president, Strategic Planning and Interactive Ventures, CBS. "We are pleased to once again make 'Big Brother' available to our online fans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with an online experience that promises to be a rich, interactive companion to 'Big Brother's' three weekly broadcasts."

CBS and RealNetworks did not disclose financial terms of the deal. So it's unknown whether CBS will get a percentage of Real's GoldPass subscribers, or if Real will get money from Big Brother 2 subscriptions.

Currently, GoldPass has 200,000 subscribers; although RealNetworks wouldn't comment on how many new subscribers it hopes to get with Big Brother 2. Nevertheless, this is probably the biggest test of the growing "pay for content" and may open the doors to more streaming pay-per-view services from the major TV networks or movie studios. The companies said in a statement that this is believed to be the "first streaming entertainment content subscription package offered by a U.S. network."

In order to preserve the drama for Big Brother 2 television viewers, CBS will not webcast certain moments that transpire in the house, including weekly challenges and the eviction nomination process. However, some events will be available to subscribers via on-demand clips after the TV broadcast. CBS is also putting a disclaimer before the stream begins saying that certain content may not be suitable for people under 21 years old, because of the uncensored view of seven people in the house.

Interestingly, last year's Big Brother TV show fared poorly in the ratings, although it had a great following online through CBS' BigBrother2000.com Web site and its free live streaming video channels.

"Big Brother 2 is a testament to the powerful ability of the Internet to complement and even enhance traditional media," said Mark Hall, vice president, Programming, RealNetworks, in a statement. "Our live, online subscription offering provides a richer experience for fans while enabling new ways for our partners to generate revenue. We, at RealNetworks are thrilled to play such a critical role in making this happen, and excited to offer great programming from CBS to our RealPlayer Gold Pass subscribers."

RealNetworks is providing the streaming for the show through its Real Broadcast Network (RBN) division.

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