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RealNetworks looks beyond PC

CEO Rob Glaser says the streaming media pioneer sees its future in television, not the computer--and that it's prepared to take a decade to get there.

2 min read
LOS ANGELES--Streaming media pioneer RealNetworks sees its future in television and not the computer, CEO Rob Glaser said Tuesday, although the transition could take as long as a decade to pull off.

"The PC is the most flexible platform today. But five or 10 years from now, the majority of our users won't be on PCs," Glaser said in an interview with CNET News.com, where he talked about bridging the gap between computers and a growing array of digital devices. "What we're doing is inventing the future of television."

Glaser's remarks came as the company took the wraps off a new version of its RealOne streaming media software, announcing new features since the release of a test, or beta, version last year. Among other things, the "gold" version of RealOne includes TurboPlay, which lets consumers play video and audio clips with minimal buffering, available as of Tuesday.

Microsoft, RealNetworks' primary competitor, has announced a similar product, dubbed Corona, but has not said when consumers will be able to use it.

RealNetworks on Tuesday also officially launched its RealOne pay-for-content plan, which lets people who plunk down between $9.95 and $19.95 per month access premium content including CNN video, backstage Oscar clips from E!, and Major League Baseball games. Consumers can test the service in a two-week, free trial.

The launch reflects the company's shift from selling software to selling subscriptions on the consumer side of its business.

"Subscription is absolutely the core, center and future there," Glaser said, noting that the company has garnered more than 500,000 subscriptions for access to its online audio and video content. "Consumers have never been so rabid" for content.

Glaser said the company will continue to focus on the enterprise software side of its business, which so far has accounted for nearly half of its revenue. However, the company is increasingly looking to subscriptions for growth as its server software licensing sales have sputtered.

RealNetworks was joined Tuesday by representatives from content partners ABC News, CNN, E! and Fox Sports, which have signed on to RealOne in a search for new revenue to offset a tight ad market. In a sign of increasing pressure on Net distributors, ABCNews.com recently cut off its distribution deal with Yahoo to sign with RealOne.

Glaser said the company's decision to offer subscriptions that include a smorgasbord of content is an attempt to mirror the cable industry, which sells a wide variety of programming--ranging from sports to children's networks--for a flat price.

"We want people to look at the payment like their water bill, electrical bill or phone bill," he said.