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Real aims at online players

CEO talks about piracy, contextual advertising, Jobs spat

LAS VEGAS — Digital media company RealNetworks is planning to make its move into the online movie space by going around the major studios to work with indie producers and makers of self-help, children’s and other niche programming.

CEO Rob Glaser discussed the strategy with Daily Variety at the National Assn. of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas, where he spent part of an earlier address lambasting the film industry for its slowness in responding to piracy, as he did at January’s Consumer Electronics Show.

While careful to praise the work of MovieLink, with which Real is a partner, Glaser said the studios that back the VOD company have been too hesitant to provide content in an earlier window and with fewer usage restrictions, rendering the service extremely limited.

“Many individuals at the studios understand the scope of this problem, but they’re stuck working at the lowest common denominator of their industry,” he said. “By working with companies that are not at the center of the movie business, we’ll be able to build the critical mass that gets bigger players on board.”

Although there are no specific plans for Real to launch such a service, Glaser said the company sees that as the best opportunity in the near future.

CEO also talked about the opportunities for contextual advertising, a space in which Google and Yahoo! subsid Overture have seen success through Web searches. He said he hopes to bring it to Real’s video and audio offerings, as well as further integrating advertisers into the company’s video content, which currently is offered through the RealOne subscription service.

In the music space, Glaser addressed his ongoing spat with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, whom Glaser urged to open the Apple iPod to other companies’ music download stores in an e-mail leaked last week. He emphasized Real’s company’s commitment to supporting as many audio and video formats as possible, but talked little about the fact that Real’s music store works with only a small number of handheld devices, and much of iTunes’ growth has been on the back of the successful iPod, for which it is the only compatible music store.

Any partnership between the two companies seems unlikely, however, after Glaser projected a picture of Jobs behind the words “So what’s the problem?” during his presentation.

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