Real Networks scores with soccer deal

Real Networks' latest deal will allow PC users to hear live football commentary over the Web, a service which current legal restrictions often prevents

Real Networks has landed a deal with European football body UEFA to broadcast live audio and time-delayed video footage of top soccer matches.

The Action Pass will be offered on the RealOne service, costing £3.95 per month or £29.95 for a full season.

By offering live audio, the service will let subscribers get around legal restrictions that prevent broadcasters such as the BBC from streaming their radio commentaries online.

Complete video coverage of matches will only be available from 11pm after they take place -- as UEFA is presumably keen not to tempt viewers away from live TV broadcasts of games. Action Pass subscribers will also be able to view highlights packages, 3,000 video clips of past games, news and other features.

Mark Hall, vice president of RealOne International, said in a statement that the UEFA Action Pass would deliver a "fantastic broadband experience to football fans worldwide".

For its part, UEFA said the deal would let it use the "latest technological advances" to bring Champions League action closer to football fans.

Many sporting bodies are still struggling to come to terms with the existence of the Internet, and impose strict rules about Web broadcasting to avoid wrecking their existing deals with television companies. This led to the Web being virtually excluded from the Sydney Olympics in 2000.