RealTime IT News

Playboy TV Lands at RealNetworks

After hinting for months it would consider selling adult content, RealNetworks on Thursday announced a deal to market streaming programming from Playboy.com, but company officials emphasized Playboy was not a part of its flagship RealOne SuperPass service.

The Seattle-based digital media firm officially launched the RealOne OpenPass marketplace that includes backend technology that powers the sale of third-party streaming content.

OpenPass, which is tightly integrated with the RealOne media player, promises to expand the reach and reduce the costs of content producers looking to market streaming programming via the Internet.

In its announcement, RealNetworks said New York-based men's lifestyle portal Playboy.com had signed up to use the technology for the Playboy TV Club service that offers racy digital programming with an interactive edge.

Real's vice president of marketing Dan Sheeran told internetnews.com the Playboy TV Club offering would be marketed to the one million subscribers who shell out $9.95 per month but he made it clear this was a third party service.

"It is very important that we be clear that this is Playboy leveraging the RealOne marketplace. This is not about adult programming as part of our RealOne SuperPass bundle," Sheeran said. "It is not a part of the SuperPass service. Even if the SuperPass users subscribe to Playboy, they have to pay separately and there are very strict parental controls integrated."

He said the parental controls were tightly wrapped to the subscribers' credit cards to block underage PC users from changing the settings. "Even to change the parental controls settings, we do credit card verifications. We gave this a lot of thought because we wanted to do it in a responsible way," Sheeran said.

The OpenPass marketplace which is being sold to third-party producers includes the backend technology, which is tied to Real's digital media platform. It includes features like digital rights management (DRM) authentication and customer service for subscribers.

For content delivery, the marketplace provides customer registration and management, payment processing, billing systems, and content security. Providers have the option of hosting their content at RealNetworks' Real Broadcast Network (RBN) or at a certified third party hosting service, Sheehan said.

It also features online reporting and end-user customer support, all aimed at reducing maintenance costs for content providers.

RealNetworks makes money by collecting a share of revenues sold on the marketplace. "They set a wholesale price and we set a retail price," Sheehan explained.

In addition to Playboy.com, the company has also signed up more than 20 brands to use the marketplace. These include Motor Trend, Sporting News Radio and the Professional Bowlers Association.

The RealOne OpenPass service was launched as a pilot program last summer.