Real Networks Gains Steam Among Cable Ops - Multichannel

Real Networks Gains Steam Among Cable Ops

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Real Networks Inc.— which more than two years ago launched one of the earliest Internet subscription services aimed at broadband users — has picked up significant traction in cable lately.

Among its key moves: the acquisition of Listen.com and the licensing of its RealOne Arcade to Comcast Corp.

"We're very pleased with the progress to date," Real president Larry Jacobson said. "The passage of time does show there is movement in the market. There is a willingness on the side of the cable industry to look at specific programs, and we're trying to show we can cooperate."

Deals in place

Real's purchase of Listen.com, announced several months ago, gave the streaming-media company some instant contracts with Charter Communications Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp. and AOL Time Warner's Road Runner division for its Internet-music service.

On May 14, Real reached terms to deliver its PC-gaming service, RealOne Arcade, to Comcast High-Speed Internet users this summer, under the "Comcast Arcade" banner. The deal allows the Philadelphia-based MSO's modem subscribers to play some games for free, and to sign up for tiered gaming services for an additional fee.

Going forward, said Jacobson, cable operators are expected to focus more on their broadband-content strategies. That's a marked change from several years ago, when the focus was on digital-cable and high-speed data rollouts.

"We're seeing the first steps towards building components of services," he said.

Real bundles

Real Networks offers more than 10 subscription services through a variety of packages, and the same mix-and-match offers sold to consumers are available to MSOs.

For example, RealOne Arcade is available as a stand-alone product or through the flagship "RealOne SuperPass" subscription offering.

It's clear MSOs have a taste for music and gaming services. But are they shying away from video — the core of many Real products — in order to protect their video business?

Jacobson doesn't necessarily think so.

"Video is a natural next step, in my view," he said. "Games and audio seem to be much more interesting today. The services are simple."

RealOne SuperPass, with its mix of news, sports and entertainment, is a more complicated product to explain to consumers because it has no precedent, he said.

Cable will also continue to have a leg up in broadband video, and not just because of its leg up in subscribers. Operators have historical relationships with networks, he noted.

"They have those relationships with programmers and the on-air relationship with people," he said.

'Progress points'

Real would like to continue to build that type of relationship with MSOs.

"We're much more supportive of other companies' brands, and we're a technology company as well," he said. "We look at our company as a balance between technology and services.

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