(click thumbnail) Describing it as "an MSO for the Internet," RealNetworks has launched RealOne, a new pay streaming media service with interactive content from some of the top names in broadcast television.
For a monthly subscription fee of $9.95, RealOne features interactive video and audio content from providers including ABC News, CBS, CNN, E! Networks, FoxSports, The Weather Channel, The Wall Street Journal and the NBA. The new service offers media companies an "unprecedented platform to build new revenue streams," said RealNetworks’ Chairman and CEO Rob Glaser.
The Dec. 4 announcement of RealOne was coupled with the launch of MusicNet, the first digital distribution platform for streaming and downloading music from major and independent record labels. The music service costs an additional $9.95 a month.
"RealOne is the cable model on the Internet," said Scott Ehrlich, RealNetworks’ vice president of programming and production. "What we are really launching today is basic. RealOne basic. What you’ll see over time is that we’ll add tiers. We’ll add pay programming ... analogous to HBO. Then we’ll add pay-per-view.
"We compensate these networks primarily on a per-subscriber basis," he continued. "As the network grows, it will evolve. In the early days, just as was with cable, the service will feature a lot of re-purposed programming. There will be on-demand, time-shifted access to material that’s on TV."
RealOne was built upon RealNetwork’s GoldPass subscription service, which it replaces. GoldPass had 400,000 active paying subscribers in December, RealNetworks said, and those subscribers were moved to the new RealOne service.
"With GoldPass, we aggregated individual pieces of programming," said Ehrlich. "With RealOne, we are aggregating channels of programming."
The RealOne service is accessed through a new media browser that fuses a streaming media player, jukebox, Web browser and new content search services. It combines the functions of the company’s existing RealPlayer and RealJukebox applications. Based upon the foundation of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, the RealOne GUI has a three-pane interface that enables subscribers to create a personalized media experience.
One aggressive content provider for RealOne is ABCNEWS.com, whose subscription offering provides broadband feeds of live and breaking news, and on-demand viewing of ABC News television programming.
Two popular content features out-of-market baseball and basketball and supplemental reality TV programming helped drive GoldPass subscriptions in the previous year, the company said. These will be staples of RealOne.
One popular content provider is the NBA. Its season-long Audio League Pass allows subscribers to listen to every NBA basketball game, home and away. The NBA also offers video highlights every quarter-hour during game nights.
Another content offering is CBS’s "Survivor Insider," with video clips not available on the television show. "Many fans of ‘Survivor’ want to figure out who will win ahead of time," said Ehrlich. "With this service, they get more clues and more insight into the personalities than they get on the TV version."
Another benefit for RealOne members is access to specific streaming media servers set aside for paying subscribers. When demand for content is high, RealOne subscribers will enjoy a higher quality of streaming media service and easier access, the company said.
The RealOne Player is currently available for Windows XP, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows ME and Windows NT. It is not available for Macintosh. The player may be downloaded for no cost at www.real.com.
Frank Beacham is an independent writer based in New York.
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