Real Networks Inc. will combine its RealPlayer video player and Real Jukebox audio application into a single streaming device — RealOne — for both narrowband and broadband Internet users.
The company also disclosed a list of 150 hardware and content companies that will support RealOne — including many cable networks.
"RealOne Platform will empower our partners to create a new generation of digital media business," RealNetworks chairman and CEO Rob Glaser said at a videostreamed company-sponsored conference held last Monday in Seattle.
By combining Real's separate audio and video streaming players into one device, Glaser hopes to accelerate the company's push into subscription services, including downloaded music files and movies.
"We're building an integrated premium-content delivery platform," he said.
Glaser said Real's $9.95 a month GoldPass service now reaches 400,000 subscribers. Content includes streamed Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association radio broadcasts.
Later this year, Real Networks will launch MusicNet, a subscription-based music service, in partnership with AOL Time Warner Inc., EMI Music and Bertlesmann Music Group. Glaser also hopes to deliver movies from the two studio-backed Internet movie services, MovieFly and Movies.com.
"All of the stars are aligning to create an ecosystem around premium services," he said.
Last week, Major League Baseball said it would offer a second premium Internet-content service. Local radio broadcasts of MLB games are already available on Real's GoldPass service.
Radio feeds are also available directly from MLB.com for $9.95 per season. MLB advanced media CEO Bob Bowman said more than 125,000 subscribers have signed up directly with the league.
"There are people out there that only want baseball, stand-alone," Bowman said. MLB's target market for the audio service is the displaced fan.
MLB's latest initiative is geared toward rotisserie-league fans. For $4.95 a season, MLB offers Game Day Press Pass, which features previews of player matchups, injury reports and other pregame statistics. Such information had been available only to the press, the league said.
Subscribers will receive the information each day via electronic mail. Fans who sign up for the remainder of the season for $4.95 will receive Game Day Press Pass for free in the 2002 season.
Professional sports leagues are treading carefully into paid Internet-subscription waters. "We seek, ultimately, to make the pie as large as possible," said NBA Television president Ed Desser.
The NBA, which participates in Real's GoldPass, "is trying to recover the costs of doing this," Desser said. But the league must protect the fees it receives from TV and radio rightsholders when it adds content to new areas, such as the Internet.
"It's a balancing factor," Desser said. "The price point is a smell test. The question is what numbers will generate the highest possible use."
Besides the NBA and MLB, dozens of other content partners are backing RealOne. They include Discovery Channel, E! Online, Oxygen Media, Starz Encore Group LLC, The Weather Channel, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., New Line Cinema, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Universal Music Group.