RealTime IT News

RealNetworks, Wavefly to Stream Media Through Home Appliances

RealNetworks Inc. Wednesday agreed to work with Wavefly Corp. to bring digital media to consumers anywhere in their homes.

To do this, the firms will forge a separate digital media player that will enabled a PC to send streams through other appliances in a home.

RealNetworks and Wavefly, which pledges to help users access digital content away from their personal computers, will bundle RealPlayer 8 into household appliances based on the Wavefly's Convergence Platform (WCP), which allow computers to stream media to TVs and stereos.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

RealNetworks will be Wavefly's preferred technology and content partner for a digital media player based on the WCP. This will include RealPlayer GoldPass, the acclaimed subscription service. When people are ready for it, they may seek out consumer electronics manufacturers to get the RealNetworks/Wavefly solution.

While streaming media is snowballing in popularity, its most ubiquitous formats -- MP3, Internet radio, and digital photos -- are accessed solely via PCs. What Wavefly aims to do is offer streaming audio and video on more traditional entertainment appliances, albeit, with the help of the home computer.

While the idea of making household appliances Net-ready is not new (see 3Com's Audrey), and many technology firms have home networking labs on their premises (IBM Corp, Microsoft Corp.), the idea of streaming through say, a stereo, is extremely nascent.

Bernard Gershon, senior vice president and general manager of ABCNEWS.com, said such a deal could let homeowners who want to subscribe to such technology kick back without having to plop down in front of a PC. They could watch a live newscast on their widescreen TV instead of their 13-inch PC monitor.

And according to a newly-published study by Arbitron/Edison Media Research, more and more Americans are doing just that. As of January 2001, 13 percent of Americans (more than 30 million) use Internet audio or video each month, compared to 10 percent in January 2000.

And those numbers are likely to grow as more and more people grab up high-speed Internet access, said Bill Rose, vice president and general manager, Arbitron Internet Information.

"As more consumers get super-fast Internet access at home, their streaming media consumption is likely to grow," Ross said.