BT is making a plunge into the digital content management market with the launch of a media platform to offer businesses and eventually individuals the ability to store, manage, deliver and sell content such as video and audio footage.

The BT Rich Media platform counts on a partnership from RealNetworks, which is providing management tools for content publishing, and TWI Interactive, whose Interactive Content Factory platform will allow users to remotely edit and produce online content.

The offering banks on growing broadband adoption and aims to propel the amount of legitimate content available online, BT said.

All of the content offered on the platform will have digital rights management (DRM) software embedded in it from DMD Secure, a BT spokesman said.

The DRM software can be downloaded for free and the content provider enables it, allowing them to set rules for sharing and billing options.

The platform is aimed at a broad market, from production companies offering digital TV programming to individuals who want to share family photos.

Businesses can sign up for the platform now and it will be available to consumers by the end of the third quarter of this year, the spokesman said. Pricing depends on user needs, such as storage, bandwidth and applications required as well as on the number of users who are expected to download content, he said.

In addition to pushing BT into the content management market, the offering will allow the company to leverage and promote its broadband business. BT has been undergoing an aggressive high-speed Internet push, and said earlier this year that revenue from its broadband business had grown 161 percent for its fiscal third-quarter of 2003 over the previous year.

That BT is targeting both businesses and individuals with its Rich Media platform is not surprising because any exclusive content for broadband providers adds value to their service, said IDC analyst Mikael Arnbjerg.

"When people get broadband without any exclusive content and applications it makes it easy for them to churn from one provider to another," he said.

"With this offering BT is looking to create loyalty with content providers and users. It's not just about revenue, it's about retaining customers."

BT Rich Media is also centred around applications and allowing people to do things for themselves, Arnbjerg said, which distinguishes it from other offerings.

The BT spokesman could not say exactly how the company plans to package the media platform, but did not rule out the possibility that it could be bundled with its consumer broadband product as a value-added service.