RealNetworks Launches RealOne
On Tuesday, RealNetworks (www.realnetworks.com) officially launched the RealOne service, which includes a new all-in-one player; a premium streaming media content subscription offering and the first unveiling of MusicNet’s music subscription service.
"This is a watershed event for consumers and the industry," said Rob Glaser, chairman and CEO, RealNetworks, in a statement. "With RealOne, consumers now have access to the richest media experience ever available on the Web, and media companies have an unprecedented platform to build new revenue streams."
The RealOne Player, first unveiled to streaming developers in June, is the company’s latest integrated player that ties together streaming playback, a jukebox player for downloadable music, a Web browser, and a subscription service into one offering. It features a three-pane interface that lets users see synchronized contextual information next to the video, along with the browser and a skinned Internet Explorer browser. It replaces RealPlayer 8 and RealJukebox, which RealNetworks had sold separately.
Dave Richards, VP of Consumer Systems at RealNetworks said that the player acts as a "hub" for audio and video, showing fresh content daily on the Real homepage. "It's the best of TV meets the best of the Web," he said, pointing out that TV programming is being repurposed as premium content through RealOne.
The subscription service, now called RealOne Membership, essentially replaces its GoldPass service with a new name and more content, RealOne Subscription still costs $9.95 a month, which gives access to the premium content and unlocks advanced features in the RealOne player like theater mode for video, faster CD ripping and improved video and audio controls. The service also comes with a new Internet radio service called RealOne Radio, which features 48 channels, programmed by RadioAMP.com. RealOne members get ad-free music through RealOne Radio.
RealNetworks said that its subscription service currently has 400,000 active paying subscribers.
Hollywood seems to be backing the RealONE initiative in growing numbers. Among the content is plenty of premium-only repurposed television content. ABCNEWS.com is offering next-day on-demand access to "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings," "Nightline with Ted Koppel" and Sam Donaldson's "Live in America" radio show. Other television content partners include CBS’s Survivor Insider show, E! Networks’ news and celebrity interviews, and weather reports from the Weather Channel.
New premium content partners include CNN, which is showing off its Web-only five-minute newscast called QuickCast exclusively in Real’s format and Fox Sports, showing off broadband streams of sports news. Other partners include CNET, Ifilm, MediaBay, the NBA, Major League Baseball, On24.com, VastVideo, the Animal Channel, AllFood and the Wall Street Journal.
RealNetworks' Music Rentals
RealNetworks also is unveiling the first major label-backed music service, in conjunction with MusicNet, which is the music company formed by RealNetworks, EMI, Warner and BMG. RealNetworks is calling the offering, RealOne Music. Yesterday, Listen.com (www.listen.com)launched its own subscription site featuring independent label content. Click here to read the Listen.com story.
Although the two services seem similar, RealOne Music uses a rental model limiting the amount of music that can be downloaded and streamed, and times-out content after 30 days of activation. Listen’s Rhapsody service, on the other hand, lets user stream (not download), an unlimited number of content per month. Richards said that the limitation was imposed by the record labels.
Still, it’s the content that will draw fans to paid music content, especially when there are plenty of free alternatives like Gnutella, and other file sharing systems. RealOne Music has selections from popular artists like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, the Backstreet Boys, Faith Hill and more. Although that’s a lot of music, it’s still missing the catalogs of Sony and Universal that are launching their own subscription service called PressPlay (www.pressplay.com). It will be interesting to see if users take to RealOne Music despite all its limitations.
Despite all the good news about content, neither Rhapsody or RealOne Music supports CD burning or transferring files to digital music players. These limitations alone can be big stumbling blocks to wide consumer adoption, since users have been using free music services for years where they can be freely transferred or burned onto CDs.
Currently, the RealOne Player is available for free for Windows XP, 98, 2000, Me and NT users. Versions for Macintosh, Linux and other platforms should be available next year, said Richards. RealOne Membership is $9.95 per month; with RealOne Music at an additional $9.95 a month for 100 streams and 100 downloads per month. For $19.95, it offers a RealOne Gold membership that lets users access both premium content and 125 music downloads and 125 music streams.
PressPlay vs. MusicNet
Richards said that RealOne Music currently has over 75,000 songs available at launch, with more music being added. All content is encoded in its RealAudio 8 codec, and uses the company’s RealMedia Commerce system, the digital rights technology unveiled in June.
Rival music service PressPlay, by contrast, will use Microsoft’s Windows Media audio format and DRM, along with technology developed by Universal Music property, MP3.com.
According to a statement from Microsoft, it already has its own music service called MSN Music, which has over 300 pre-programmed radio stations and a helpful "SoundsLike" searching technology to help listeners find music that suits their tastes.
"Also, by the end of this year, MSN Music will launch an online music subscription service with pressplay . . . which will provide the millions of visitors to MSN Music with a broad catalog of music from chart-topping artists in multiple genres as well as unique programming through a subscription service," said Lisa Gurry, product manager of MSN, in a statement.