RealNetworks’ Reinvention

Uploading videos to YouTube is easy enough. But viewing and sharing them on multiple devices? Not so much. Enter media software company RealNetworks, which plans to announce the global rollout of its cloud storage and sharing service RealPlayer Cloud at DLD14 in Munich.In the 1990s RealNetworks developed one of the first popular formats and associated software for playing audio on the Internet. Now, the company is betting its future on making it easy to privately share videos among mobile devices, television sets and computers.

“Our big idea is that video works anywhere you want,” says RealNetworks Founder and interim CEO Rob Glaser, a scheduled speaker at DLD14 in Munich. “We are moving to a permanently multi-screen world so any digital entertainment experience needs to be designed from the ground up for that world.”

RealPlayer Cloud, which was launched in the U.S. two months ago, lets users of many different devices store their videos online and stream, download and share. The service automatically reformats videos to best suit the device to which you stream or download them, taking into account device type, screen size, bandwidth and storage space. The service works using new or updated Real apps on 10 platforms, including Android devices, iPhones, iPads, Windows PC, Kindle Fire, Chromecast and Roku TV set-top boxes. “The level of engagement since launch has dramatically exceeded expectations,” says Glaser.

The apps are free but you pay for storage: $4.99 a month or $49 a year for 25GB (Silver); $9.99 a month or $99 a year for 100 GM (Gold); $29.99 a month or $299 a year for 300 GB (Pro). DLD14 delegates will be given vouchers for 100 gigabytes of storage, Glaser says.

RealNetworks helped pioneer streaming audio and video over the Internet; millions of people used its RealPlayer software. It also launched a number of other services, including an online music service called Rhapsody that was later spun off as a separate company.

Although the company lost its way in recent years Glaser, who left the company and recently returned as its interim CEO, argues that RealNetworks is uniquely positioned to play in this new space. “We have the benefit of 20 years in video and audio and are atypical in that we have both consumer software experience and we also have a SaaS network service capability,” he says. “We have all the technology needed to identify, transcode, transmux and then reformat for bit rate, screen size and file size and we have a technology, SurePlay, that can identify the playback of a device and pair it with the right version of the file.”

Glaser says he views the cloud sharing and storage business “as a disruptive opportunity that is phenomenal for us.” He says he is proud of what RealPlayer Cloud has become in under two years. But, he adds, “it is a sapling compared to what it is going to be in future.”