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Subscriptions head exits RealNetworks

As part of a strategic reorganization at the company, Merrill Brown, who heads up the RealOne SuperPass subscription video service will leave at the end of August.

RealNetworks on Wednesday confirmed that Merrill Brown, head of its RealOne SuperPass subscription video service, will leave the company at the end of August.

Brown's planned departure, two weeks shy of his one-year anniversary at the multimedia software company, is part of an executive and strategic reorganization at RealNetworks. The company will combine the consumer subscription division overseen by Brown with a technology unit.

"Merrill participated in the process, and as a result, some executives changed, and his role was no longer proceeding in the direction he wanted to pursue," said Lisa Amore, a RealNetworks spokeswoman.

Amore said Richard Wolpert, a company consultant who was promoted to chief strategy officer, and Martin Plaehn, executive vice president of products and services, will oversee the combined units. Wolpert, a former Walt Disney executive who later ran e-commerce site, will largely manage RealOne's content partnerships and the strategic direction of the service.

In an interview, Brown said his decision to leave stemmed from the lack of need at the company for someone with media expertise to run subscriptions. He added there was a possibility to remain at the company in a product development role, but said it wasn't his cup of tea.

"I just wanted from my point of view as a media guy the kind of role that would make me wake up every morning and be jazzed about coming in," Brown said.

He added that he does not have another job lined up and will take time off to consider his next move.

The restructuring comes as RealNetworks increasingly pins its future on its wireless and online music products. The company is in the process of acquiring online music company, which runs the subscription service Rhapsody. RealNetworks plans to continue selling Rhapsody as part of its multimedia bundles.

RealNetworks also is striking deals with wireless companies to embed its multimedia playback software into their phones. The company said in June that British phone giant Vodafone will use its streaming audio and video technology in its future line of smart phones. RealNetworks also has a partnership with Nokia to offer audio and video streaming capabilities.