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RioPort Online Music Service Shuttered

Long before there was an Apple iTunes Music Store, there was RioPort... but no more.

San Francisco-based parent company Ecast Inc. Wednesday shuttered the service that once supplied the Web sites of major retailers -- including BestBuy.com, SamGoody.com and HP.com.

The service gave retailers the capability to sell digital downloads to consumers for .99 cents per song, which in turn could be burned to disc, played back on computers or transferred to portable listening devices.

Ecast said it decided to close the division in order to focus on its core business: delivering digital music from the major record labels and numerous independents and electronic games from interactive entertainment publishers to over 1,400 broadband-enabled Jukeboxes and gaming machines.

The company currently has content partnerships with companies like BMG, EMI, Sony Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Midway Games and Playboy Enterprises.

Ecast launched its Location-Based Broadband Network business in 1999. The Online Music Store service was added in Oct. 2002 through a merger with San Jose-based RioPort.

In the same way ATM networks let banks dispense cash and services, Ecast's network delivers content to consumers at bars, restaurants, hotels, coffee houses and nightclubs. In the second quarter of 2003, Ecast said it logged almost 8.3 million digital paid plays on network-enabled Jukeboxes, an increase of more than 236 percent over the same period in 2002.

"Over the past year, Ecast's Location-Based Broadband Network business has expanded significantly and is clearly our stronger opportunity," Ecast CEO Robbie Vann-Adibe said in a statement. "The level of financial commitment required to market an online music store to consumers, as recent events have demonstrated, was simply too high to make financial sense for Ecast.

As a result, Ecast is closing its San Jose office and dismissing roughly 25 employees. In addition, the company recently decided to transfer its technical support, installation coordination and related customer care functions, currently located in San Diego, into its headquarters in San Francisco. Ecast said its Tokyo office remains unaffected.