RealNetworks Cues Up New Media Player, Platform
RealNetworks will greet company supporters at its developers conference today with a new generation of technology and services for which it has adopted the "One" moniker.
But RealNetworks news actually comes in threes.
Under the RealOne Platform banner, RealNetworks is introducing a new version of its flagship streaming media player - called the RealOne player - and new RealOne development tools that The company said will more easily help content producers monetize their content. RealNetworks will also unveil an expanded version of its GoldPass subscription-based content service, which it will relaunch later this year under the new RealOne name that includes the companys version of the MusicNet service.
"RealOne Platform will empower our partners to create a new generation of digital media businesses," RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser said in a prepared statement. "By combining the many ways that people enjoy and interact with digital media, and by steering use of the Internet toward integrated, compelling audio/visual content, RealOne Platform will fundamentally change how consumers and creators of content will relate."
At the heart of the platform is a new three-in-one media player. Available in preview form on the companys Web site, the new RealOne player combines the two previously stand-alone players - RealPlayer for streaming audio and video, and RealJukebox music software - and adds a new media browser, said Steve Banfield, general manager of RealNetworks.
The player also sports a new three-pane interface built around "play, more and explore." The "play" window serves up streaming audio and video, as well as downloaded content. The "more" window can be used by content producers to add "contextual information" by annotating or embellishing their media content, by displaying ads or by serving up subscription-only content. Through the "explore" window, users can search the Web, look through an Internet radio station directory or look through their own media collection.
The idea behind the three-in-one player was to "simplify" the experience for both consumers and content producers. "What do people want to do? Watch the ballgame, listen to songs, find new content on the Web," Banfield said. "Content producers want to get content out and add value to that content so that they can make money. . . . What we want to do is enable a digital media economy."
RealNetworks also wants to move into subscription services, a line of business for which the company has seen growth at a time when its advertising and software revenue growth has declined. As it always has, RealNetworks said it will offer a free version of the RealOne player. But the company hopes users will pony up $9.95 per month - or more _ to have that player populated with content from the new premium-content service it will launch within the next 60 days.
An expansion of the 13-month-old GoldPass subscription service, which RealNetworks said now boasts more than 400,000 paying subscribers, the new RealOne service will feature, among other content, downloadable and streaming music from MusicNet. The online music venture, of which RealNetworks is a partner, brings together the catalogs of AOL Time Warners Warner Music Group, Bertelsmanns BMG Entertainment, EMI Group and independent label Zomba Recording.
RealNetworks is also banking on the new integrated player/services platform to help it as it battles rival Microsoft and its Windows Media Player in the marketplace. In a public relations sniping contest last week, the two companies sent out e-mails claiming they each offer the most popular media player. According to Jupiter Media Metrix, Microsoft saw more than 24.7 million home users fire up its Windows Media Player in July, while RealNetworks had more than 24.4 million users launch its stand-alone player.
But through its player distribution deal with AOL - which includes the RealPlayer in version 6.0 of AOLs client software, used by AOLs more than 30 million subscribers - RealNetworks saw its usage levels boosted to 35.5 million users in July, according to Jupiter.
Concerned that developers might cancel plans to journey to Seattle for its two-day conference, the company is offering an "online" version of the Real Conference. For $200, participants can view live sessions via RealNetworks streaming technology, as well as access conference keynotes and panels on-demand for up to three months.