RealNetworks Cranks Up Its Advertising

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NEW YORK ( -- RealNetworks today launches a promotion offering free access without the use of a credit card to its subscription-based media service that features streaming audio and video content on the Web.

The promotion, backed by print and online advertising, offers consumers a free two-day trial starting today of RealOne SuperPass service without having to use a credit card number to access the service. The premium service offers streaming audio and video content from CNN, Fox Sports, ABC News, the National Basketball Association, 50 ad-free radio stations and other content.

Ad blitz
A full-page ad in today's The New York Times carries the headline "Free samples to the first 300 million who sign up." The 300 million figure refers to the number of U.S. households. Online ads appear on CBS Sportsline,,, Lycos and other consumer online properties.

Among the promotional highlights

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being used to entice consumers to try out the service, Real, through, will run Diane Sawyer's interview with Whitney Houston on PrimeTime Live in its entirety Dec. 5.

"It's the first time we've offered a free trial without a credit card," said Tom Romary, vice president consumer marketing, RealNetworks. "One of our goals is to reach out directly to consumers." He said Real rarely advertises in the offline world.

Paid-content pioneer
Real is a pioneer of paid content services on the Web. Yahoo! has moved to premium subscription services and other media properties as online ad revenues have sunk. AOL Time Warner, a latecomer to the battle for subscription revenues, announced Dec. 3 its plans to offer cable-TV-style tiered content services through a high-speed broadband add-on service.

$9.95 a month
RealOne SuperPass costs $9.95 a month. Real said that since the service's launch a year ago, it has pulled in 850,000 paying subscribers. Real signed up more than 1 million people using a free 14-day trial offer it introduced in March 2002, but the offer required a credit card. As of Real's Oct. 22 earnings report, the company said it added 450,000 subscribers to the service.

Real's two-day promotion is the first salvo in the company's attempt to raise its profile. The company in 2003 will fire off a brand campaign, as well as smaller tactical direct marketing and ad efforts to lure subscribers.

"You will see more of this type of promotion and more national advertising to support both the product and the brand," said Merrill Brown, senior vice president of RealNetworks' RealOne Services. He said budgets were still being finalized.

'The product is working'
"The product is working, the industry gets it, but the public needs to understand the value of the brand," which, he said, is "innovative, has real utility and comes form an organization that gets the nexus of technology and media."

Publicis Groupe's Publicis in the West, Seattle, handles Real's advertising.

In other news, RealNetworks today said it will carry Starz On Demand, an on-demand subscription movie service that will offer more than 100 movie titles per month. The service will launch in spring 2003. No pricing was announced. The movies will be available using the RealOne player on PCs, TVs and portable devices.

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