"We have reached a critical mass," said Mr. Glaser, founder and CEO of RealNetworks (www.real.com), a dominant industry force in delivering software to add real-time audio or video to Web sites. Mr. Glaser estimated 70% to 80% of the most active Web users have his streaming software on their PCs.
"We are now at a point where for a substantial part of the market, the substantial majority of people already have all of the capabilities" to accept streaming ads, Mr. Glaser said.
RealNetworks sells its software to other sites and offers decoder software free to PC users, but it also is a media company with ad-supported sites such as MusicNet, Film.com and LiveConcerts.
Streaming content is growing fast but isn't yet the standard: Among the millions of Web pages, Mr. Glaser estimated just 300,000 pages offer real-time audio or video. Still, sites using RealNetworks' server software now deliver 150,000 hours a week of fresh content.
Streaming ads still are in their infancy; RealNetworks' own site portfolio is one of the few to have a streaming option on its rate card. Mr. Glaser expects interest to grow as advertisers begin to see the advantages of adding audio and video twists to banner ads, interstitial Web ads and corporate Web sites to make messages stand out.
Mr. Glaser this year started the Real Agencies Affiliates Program, offering training, discounts and other aids to develop multimedia ads. About 20 ad and online agencies have signed up, including Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York; Modem Media, Westport, Conn. (now Modem Media . Poppe Tyson); and OgilvyOne, New York. Some big advertisers, including AT&T Corp., General Motors Corp.'s Buick and Reebok International, have tried out RealNetworks' streaming ads.
Mr. Glaser opened RealNetworks in 1994 after putting in a decade at Microsoft Corp. Like Netscape Communications Corp., Mr. Glaser recognized the power of the Internet long before Microsoft did. Unlike Netscape, Mr. Glaser found a way to both live with and battle his old employer.
Last July, Microsoft bought a 10% stake in RealNetworks, licensed technology and agreed to include RealPlayer software in releases of Windows. But Microsoft continues to push a rival product, NetShow. Mr. Glaser said he has no interest in selling out to Microsoft.
"We just see such huge opportunity" in media delivery, he said. "We didn't see Microsoft or any other company as being the natural inheritors of that business."
Betcha didn't know: Mr. Glaser, who originally called his company Progressive Networks, hasn't given up his progressive-leaning ways. He's a big fan of Adbusters Magazine, the Vancouver, B.C., quarterly that tweaks the ad and media business. "One of the ways we learn in society," he said, "is from the best-informed critiques."