RealTime IT News

RealNetworks Offers the RealOne

Seattle's RealNetworks Inc. Tuesday became the second company this week to bow its digital music subscription service Tuesday when it launched RealOne, which also happens to offer the first glimpse of how the much-ballyhooed MusicNet service will work. The announcement comes a day after Listen.com unveiled its own service, Rhapsody.

But a significant difference is that RealOne is not expressly about helping consumers get music online; it offers an amalgamation of content from ABCNEWS.com, CNN, E! Networks and some 20-odd other popular sites. Still, with major label backing, music will be a huge part of RealOne. In fact, it's delivered vis-à-vis MusicNet, the heavily-publicized child of media/tech conglomerate AOL Time Warner, and labels Bertelsmann AG and EMI Group plc, with technological support from, of course, RealNetworks.

Consumers who love to get their content via the Web can pick either the premium content from popular sites, just the music, or both. RealOne Music is priced at $9.95 a month and offers 100 streams and 100 downloads per month, with over 75,000 tracks to pick from. RealOne membership with access to premium channels is $9.95 per month. RealOne Gold Membership, which offers access to both premium content and 125 music downloads and 125 music streams, is priced at $19.95.

Available for free download today, the RealOne media player is the tool users need to enjoy the fruits of RealOne. It allows streaming and downloading, Web browsing and CD recording. It melds features of RealNetworks' RealPlayer and or RealJukebox with a Web browser to allow for a more personalized experience.

RealNetworks touts RealOne as a likely success in part because it is patterned after the company's GoldPass subscription service, which recognizes more than 400,000 paid subscriptions. But analysts remain skeptical that current music subscription services will blast off because of viable free music swapping services, such as Morpheus and KaZaA, which a Dutch judge ordered shut down because of copyright infringement concerns last Friday. Analysts also spout the mantra that if users cannot take the music wherever they want, then what good is it? Simply, portability is a key ingredient to a subscription service's success.

Still, MusicNet, its archrival pressplay and others, such as RioPort's PulseOne, have inked myriad partnerships and cross-licensing deals with record labels over the past few months. It's a safe bet that until a major shakeout occurs, they will carry on undeterred.