Real Networks Inc. last week relaunched RealOne — the Internet-content service formerly known as GoldPass — replete with more than a half-dozen broadband-content offerings from cable programmers.
And Exent Technologies Ltd., which pitched its broadband Internet-gaming application two weeks ago at the Western Show, inked a distribution deal with Bell Canada.
MusicNet — the subscription-based online music service from Real, Warner Music Group, Bertlesmann A.G. and EMI Group — is a key element in RealOne.
Both RealOne and MusicNet, which offers streaming audio and music downloads, are available on a standalone basis for $9.95 per month. The two services sell on a combined basis for $19.95 per month.
Real's GoldPass service had 400,000 subscribers.
Cable programmers supplying content to RealOne include Cable News Network, E! Entertainment Television, Fox Sports and The Weather Channel. Also involved are ABCNEWS.com. CBS's Survivor, CNET Networks Inc., IFILM Inc., Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the National Basketball Association and VastVideo Inc.
Exent's deal is with Bell Canada, whose 800,000 broadband customers are primarily on digital subscriber line connections. But Exent vice president of product management Bruce Lawhorn said U.S. MSOs are interested in the service.
"The cable market is looking for compelling value-added services to stick on top of broadband connections to make them worthwhile," he said.
With the economy slowing down, cable-modem subscribers, for whom the novelty has worn off, are wondering what they're paying $40 to $50 per month for, Lawhorn said.
"People are starting to look at that money," he said, knowing they can still get electronic mail Internet access through slower, but cheaper dial-up connections.
"When a user will first enter into a broadband gaming system, they say: 'Wow. This is great. This is why I got broadband.' You can't use this over a dial-up connection," Lawhorn said.
Exent encodes CD-ROM content in a proprietary encoding and digital rights-management format, then places that material on servers and streams the gaming application to the PC over the service provider's network.
The game itself is never downloaded to the PC, but is instead constantly streamed from a central server.
In Bell Canada's case, the games will initially be dispatched from three major data centers. The content is encoded into streamable bites using a proprietary algorithm that estimates when the next batch of material is needed for any particular end-user.
Lawhorn said Exent has built-in active latency management, so content arrives just in time for the PC gamer.
"Even with a lot of packet loss, we can stay ahead of when you need information," he said. "As usage increases, service providers can move servers dynamically into the subscriber network.
"It's, 'As they come, build it out,' not, 'Build it and they will come.' As you get more users and revenue, you incur more network costs. It's easy to put servers in right places to minimize your costs."
Bell Canada offers the games both via subscription and on a single-title basis. Users can play five games a month for $19.95, with no bandwidth limitations. For three games, the monthly fee is $14.95.
Users can rent a single game for $6.95 for a three-day period, $9.95 for seven days and $17.95 for 30 days.
MusicNet will afford RealOne subscribers with over 75,000 tracks from which to choose; 100 streams and 100 downloads will be available for the $9.95 monthly fee.
RealOne Gold Membership, the $19.95 a month service, includes the RealOne content plus 125 music downloads and 125 music streams.
Artists on MusicNet include Eric Clapton, Matchbox 20, Christina Aguilera, Backstreet Boys, Faith Hill, 'N' Sync and Britney Spears.
RealOne has all the integration of playback, download and management functions of Real's existing products, RealPlayer and RealJukebox.
The Weather Channel will supply national, regional and local forecasts, as well as targeted video advertising availabilities.
Advertisers can target ads to specific areas of the country via an embedded banner within the RealOne media browser; a five- to 10-second streaming commercial at the beginning of each weather video targeted to a specific city; or a 30-second spot at the end of each video, the two companies said.
CNN will offer QuickCast, a three-to-five minute news on demand product updated each hour, and CNN Uncut, which will offer behind-the-scenes news footage. E! will serve up unseen footage from its Wild On
series, plus expanded news from E! News Daily.
The NBA and MLB will stream local radio broadcasts of all regular-season games over the Internet.
VastVideo will supply portions of a library that includes 18,000 long-form and 250,000 short-form video clips. The content "skews younger," said Laurie Giddins, the president of VastVideo and a former Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. new-media executive.
That content includes extreme sports, pop-culture programming, comedic outtakes from its "Caught on Film" series, "Virtual Vacations" and "This Day in History."
It's the first time Vast Video has supplied content to Real's Internet subscription package. Vast Video also licenses content to Yahoo! Inc. and InfoSpace Inc., among others, and counts 150 million unique users a month.