At least in theory the new technology breaks through what many view as the single largest impediment to the development of the Internet as a unified mass audio-video medium: the lack of a single standard for encoding, streaming and playing content.
RealNetworks, Microsoft Corp. and Apple Computer dominate the U.S. market for streaming video, but with completely incompatible standards and players that previously recognized only their own proprietary technology.
The new, universal RealOne player is immediately available to 750,000 Real consumers who pay $9.95 a month for a RealOne SuperPass subscription. The RealOne SuperPass includes an array of content from ABCNews.com, CNN, E! Networks, FoxSports.com, Major League Baseball and other media providers.
There are 285 million unique registered users of the RealOne player, according to the company.
New ad opportunities
"You're paying for the convenience and ease of being able to play all your media in one place," Steve Banfield, VP-strategic relations, RealNetworks, told AdAge.com.
For example, a sponsor of sports content on Real could overlay graphics and images on digital video in a cross-promotion. Attention-getting overlays could be complemented with a contextual area in which viewers could opt-in if they want more information on a free trial, contest or promotion.
The new RealOne player, Mr. Banfield said, eliminates numerous pop-up windows that interfere with a viewer's enjoyment of media.
"We have a three-pane model where the digital video is connected to contextual information about the advertiser, so a user can see an ad and start to interact with that ad, and whatever they're launching can continue on," he said.