E-tailer scores music coup

In a major coup for an upstart e-tailer, CheckOut.com has struck a deal with Internet software giant RealNetworks Inc., to become the exclusive online music retailer for RealJukebox, a deal valued north of $6 million.

Under terms of the multiyear deal announced Wednesday, CheckOut.com will be prominently featured on RealJukebox’s online music player, a position CheckOut.com acquired for a sum said to double the $3 million in ad revenues RealNetworks generated in the first half of the year.

CheckOut.com will also serve as the exclusive host of the “Chart Toppers” listings for RealJukebox’s “Get Music” arena and will become the exclusive provider for the “Try It and Buy It” area where users can preview songs and purchase the featured CD through direct links to CheckOut.com.

Down the river?

CheckOut.com bumps leading books and music e-tailer Amazon.com, which has served as the official retailer on the RealJukebox site since its initial launch in May.

The pact gives CheckOut.com access to more than 10 million users of RealJukebox, a service that RealNetworks plans to push further as a major player of MP3 and other digital music files on the ‘Net.

The deal with Seattle-based RealNetworks is a major coup for CheckOut.com, the music, movies and games e-tailing venture created by Michael Ovitz and former Disney online exec Richard Wolpert, now partner in charge of Internet and technology ventures for investment outfit the Yucaipa Cos.

CheckOut.com officially launched in August and so far has seen DVD sales outpace other offerings on the site.

Contacting customers

“Our bigger business is music, movies and games,” Wolpert told Daily Variety. “Our trick was trying to figure out how to get in contact with as many music customers as possible. When we look at a RealJukebox, we know they’re on the Internet and like music.”

RealNetworks, which has made its RealPlayer an online powerhouse for viewing video online, launched RealJukebox in May. RealJukebox Plus, the $30 version, launched in August. RealJukebox on Wednesday also said it has inked a deal with MP3.com, enabling users to access the Web site’s archive of 150,000 digital music tracks.

Nearly 60 million Web surfers have downloaded RealPlayer for free.

The Real deal is also expected to expand CheckOut.com’s digital music download strategy, Wolpert said, with RealJukebox providing it “the tools and influence within the music community.”

Real leaders

“RealNetworks’ leadership in the streaming and digital distribution space and the widespread adoption of RealJukebox makes this agreement an important component of CheckOut.com’s downloadable media and commerce strategy,” Wolpert said.

Wolpert said that CheckOut.com has already begun offering customers exclusive digital downloads of music tracks on its site and plans to expand its list beginning in November, possibly through deals with record labels.

CheckOut.com aims to differentiate itself by offering individual Web sites for talent and sell CDs, movies, games and more, as well as provide current news and information on the artist and chat services.

The strategic move is said to have given CheckOut.com an edge over other retailers who opt to just sell products.

Separately, RealNetworks also said it will exclusively offer tracks from Rage Against the Machine’s upcoming CD during the first week of October through a deal with Sony Music’s Epic label. The record bows Dec. 2.

It will enable users to download musicvids for the first time, with Nine Inch Nails’ upcoming “We’re in This Together” track off of its latest “Fragile” album, as the first.

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