RealNetworks has agreed to buy the only (semi-)independent online music subscription service provider, Listen.com, for about $36 million in cash and stock (of which $17.1 million is in cash). Real already owned a minority stake of the privately held company.
Real plans to bring the Listen.com's subscription service, Rhapsody, closer to its own subscription service, RealOne. However, the deal will most likely cause major shockwaves among the record labels, since Real has been -- and still is -- a big shareholder in Rhapsody's competitor, MusicNet, that is much more openly backed by major record labels (AOL TimeWarner, BMG and EMI). It also underscores partially the widening gap between AOL TimeWarner, whose online division AOL has started moving away from Real's server products and streaming solutions, and RealNetworks.