RealNetworks tries external marketing

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Premium multimedia Web services that offer streaming video and audio are aggressively marketing their packages to the increased number of consumers clicking in to keep up with news of the war.

Category leader RealNetworks reports it racked five times the number of accesses to its news content than usual in the first week of the war. It seized on the opportunity by purchasing online advertising promoting the news content on its for-pay RealOne SuperPass.

"We're using some external marketing; we'll watch carefully to see if we'll buy more," said Merrill Brown, senior VP-RealOne Services, RealNetworks. Mr. Brown maintains the ad buys, which ran March 20-24 on Dow Jones & Co.'s Wall Street Journal Online, New York Times Co.'s and Gannett's, were more about "brand identification than about selling to subscribers."

"We've got a lot of things going on here. We don't want to be perceived as overly capitalizing on what is a difficult set of circumstances for our country and the world. We're not shy about it, but on the other hand, we don't want to build a subscription business on this experience," Mr. Brown said.

A house ad on Real's Web site read: "RealOne SuperPass, your direct line to the front lines. Get more war coverage from RealOne SuperPass, which includes our premium media player." The ad promotes a 14-day free trial to SuperPass, after which consumers are charged $9.95 a month. (Read more at QwikFIND aao55j)

Real has been the most aggressive, but others are also touting their capabilities. Walt Disney Co.'s recently launched ABCNews Live, a 24-hour streaming video feed available only to ABCNews On Demand subscribers, and now Yahoo! Platinum subscribers. Yahoo! launched Yahoo! Platinum on March 17, a $9.95 per month audio/video subscription service that includes news from more than 90 sources, exclusive video from CBS's "Survivor" and Fox's "American Idol II," college basketball and other content. Two days after the launch, Yahoo! added ABCNews Live to Platinum. Yahoo! declined to comment on Platinum marketing. The company does not break out the number of subscribers for Yahoo! Platinum or for any of its premium services, though at the end of 2002, Yahoo! reported 2.2 million subscribers to its for-pay services. offers some streaming video for free. The New York Times Co.'s has no plans to charge consumers for its multimedia features. It reported 404,000 registered users and 3.4 million page views for multimedia for the week of March 16 through March 22, according to a spokeswoman. There were 30.7 million page views on March 24, surpassing by a hair the 29 million it had on Sept. 13, 2001, its highest traffic day ever.

content is key

"Are people who are at their desks without TV, are they thinking they have to have this video? I'm assuming the answer is no," said Greg Bloom, senior analyst, Nielsen/NetRatings. "If you're at home with multiple TV channels, you don't need it [either]. The differentiator would be content" that can't be accessed elsewhere, he noted. He suggested that premium content will take off when multimedia providers offer consumers the ability to select and package content.

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

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