RealNets pitches suit

Multimedia provider accuses MLB of breaking contract

This article was updated on Mar. 10, 2004.

HOLLYWOOD — RealNetworks is accusing Major League Baseball of balking on a new contract the two companies recently signed.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the digital media provider alleges that MLB Advanced Media, the online wing of pro baseball, reneged on a recent two-year agreement to provide audio and video Webcasts of its games in Real’s proprietary format.

RealNetworks was the exclusive digital media provider for MLB from 2001-03, providing both backend services and the only digital media format used for baseball Webcasts.

The two companies recently ended talks to continue the exclusive deal, with Real saying it was losing $5 million per year based on the old terms. In its filing, Real said the two companies recently agreed to a new two-year non-exclusive deal to use Real’s digital media format for Webcasting, but MLB has failed to follow through and is now Webcasting spring training games only in Windows Media.

MLB Advanced Media issued a statement in response, saying, “We are disappointed that RealNetworks has brought a lawsuit against its longstanding content partner. We will continue to honor the agreement we have and expect to prevail in any litigation of this matter.”

It’s the second major lawsuit to be filed recently by Real, following a $1 billion complaint aimed at Microsoft in December alleging anti-competitive behavior in the digital media space.

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