RealNetwork's G2 player advances rich-media ads

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RealNetworks today launches the market-ready version of its RealPlayer G2, a streaming media program that brings higher-quality audio, video and animation to the Internet.

RealPlayer G2, released in beta version in April, has already been downloaded by 11 million users. Using G2, users can view animation and video and hear audio programming, including advertising, on low-bandwidth connections. The player can be downloaded for free on the RealNetworks site. It takes about two minutes with a 28.8K modem.

"This gets us one big step closer to our ability to bring more TV and radio commercials to Web audiences," said Jeff Lehman, VP-advertising for RealNetworks, Seattle.

RealNetworks is working with a handful of advertisers to develop rich-media commercials.

800.COM

One advertiser is 800.com, a consumer electronics site that launched last month. It is using G2 to deliver 15- and 20-second animated spots, using Macromedia Flash, to introduce users to its site.

"Because we're in a vertical market selling home entertainment products, it's not a simple sell like a book or a CD," said Greg Drew, president-CEO. "Using rich media helps us tell our story in a way that regular banner ads do not."

RealNetworks, which charges between $30 and $45 per impression, declined to name other advertisers.

CUSTOMIZED PLAYERS

Once downloaded, the G2 player resides on the user's desktop as an icon. RealNetworks has signed 70 content partners, including ZDTV, CNN.com, ABC.com and other providers of rich-media content, and users can customize their players with channels of their choice.

When users click on the channels, the player launches the browser and dials into the Internet; ads play during the preload time.

So far, 800.com has seen a 6% click-through rate on its animated ads. The industry average is about 1%.

And in an interesting advertising twist, RealNetworks is working with its agency of record, Tyee Group, Portland, Ore., to develop 10-second TV spots based on the Internet advertising to run on national TV after Thanksgiving.

RealNetworks also has partnered with Excite to provide a co-branded streaming media search capability.

Copyright November 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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