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RealOne Hawks For-Fee War News Video; Rivals Promote Free Video Viewing

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- While many in the advertising and marketing industry debate whether to continue advertising during
RealOne is aggresively marketing its for-pay video player to an online audience hungry for war news.
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wartime, RealNetworks is taking advantage of huge traffic surges at Web news sites to aggressively sell its RealOne Superpass video service.

CNN.com and ABCnews.com
The company, which charges for use of its proprietary RealOne Superpass video streaming system, has partnered with two major news sites -- CNN.com and ABCnews.com. Both Web sites have closed off their video war news to all but those who pay for the RealOne Superpass media player.

Meanwhile, war news rivals such as CBSnews.com and MSNBC.com are making "free video" a major element of their Web site graphics and promotions.

Merrill Brown
Making this all the more interesting, Merrill Brown, the editor who originally built MSNBC.com into a highly respected online news powerhouse, is now the senior vice president of RealNetwork's RealOne Services and, through Real's CNN and ABC partnerships, is in competition with his old online newsroom.

As senior vice president and editor in chief of MSNBC.com, Mr. Brown pioneered integrating streaming video clips and traditional text stories to create highly graphical Web news delivery packages. He is widely regarded as one of the leading authorities in this new area of online broadcast journalism.

Advertising placements
Along with its partnerships with two network TV Web sites, RealNetworks is also advertising its video news services to an audience ravenous for daily news from Iraq.

On its own Web site home page, RealNetworks features a large version of its player screen with a graphic screaming "America at War." Nearby, text promoting its $9.95-a-month subscription service says "Follow the war developments and other breaking news with exclusive coverage from ABCNEWS and CNN."

'Difficult set of circumstances'
"We don't want to be perceived as overly capitalizing on what is a difficult set of circumstances for our country and the world," Mr. Brown said in an interview with AdAge.com. "We're not shy about it,

MSNBC.com offers war news video for free and trumpets that fact in its Web page graphics.
but on the other hand, we don't want to build a subscription business on this experience [war]."

"We're using some external marketing; we'll watch carefully to see if we'll buy more," Mr. Brown said. He said recent ad buys, which ran March 20-24 on Dow Jones & Co.'s Wall Street Journal Online, New York Times Co.'s NYTimes.com and Gannett's USAToday.com, were more about "brand identification than about selling to subscribers." Publicis Groupe's Publicis in the West handles Real's creative; Aquantive's Avenue A, Seattle, coordinates media buying and planning.

Real said it had more than 900,000 subscribers for its for-pay services as of the fourth quarter 2002.

Yahoo! Platinum
Real is not alone in its effort to market for-pay video news services to the Web war audience. Internet giant Yahoo! has just debuted its Yahoo! Platinum $9.95-a-month online audio/video subscription service. It offers news from more than 90 sources, including ABCNews Live, a 24-hour streaming war news video feed.

Yahoo! declined to comment on the marketing of its premium service, and the company does not break out the number of subscribers to Yahoo! Platinum or to any of its premium services. Yahoo! said it had 2.2 million subscribers to its for-pay online video services at the end of 2002.

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