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Excite@Home to Offer Software on Demand

LOS ANGELES -Hoping to drive consumer demand for broadband connections, Excite@Home Corp. has partnered with software-on-demand rivals Into Networks Inc. and Media Station Inc. to offer gaming, business and educational titles to its U.S. high-speed customers.

The data-over-cable provider will launch software-on-demand nationwide by the second week of December, director of content applications Kirstin Hoefer said. It also has plans to expand the service beyond U.S. borders.

Excite@Home said it will test the SOD waters by initially offering the service free to customers for 30 days. After that time, users can continue to access the service month by month, either by subscription or on a per-use basis.

A monthly subscription for Media Station's "SelectPlay" service will cost customers $9.95 per month. SelectPlay subscribers can rent new software titles for $3.95 over a 48-hour period.

Into Networks offers two monthly subscription options: $5.99 for each content category, or $9.99 for each category it offers. It also allows users to check out titles for two days at $2.99 per title without paying a monthly subscription fee.

Excite@Home, Media Station and Into Networks did not divulge how they will share those revenues.

Excite@Home's software-on-demand customers will be prompted to download a client-based "software player" before they can begin to access Media Station and Into Networks titles stored on servers linked to the Excite@Home's Internet backbone. Media Station and Into Networks will provide the back-end servers to handle the user authentification, payment and security elements.

Hoefer said Excite@Home selected both companies for SOD because the gaming and business utility titles they provide rarely overlap. With that in mind, titles and services from each provider will be separated into @Home's existing "content channels" such as games, computers, education, family and lifestyle.

"This way, both companies get good distribution," Hoefer said.

Cox Communications Inc. cut a deal with Into Networks earlier this year to offer software-on-demand to about 450,000 customers in Omaha, Neb.; Wichita, Kan.; Fairfax County, Va.; and Oklahoma City.

Into Networks also has similar deployment or distribution deals with Road Runner, AT&T Broadband, Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable, NorthPoint Communications and Qwest Communications International Inc.

Media Station has launch agreements with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T Broadband, Sprint Corp., Broadwing Inc., Qwest and Internet Express, a San Diego-based digital subscriber line provider.