RealNetworks slashes 15% of staff

Streaming media company RealNetworks said Thursday it laid off 15 percent of its work force in an effort to keep its costs in balance amid the economic storm.

Streaming media company RealNetworks said Thursday it laid off 15 percent of its work force in an effort to keep its costs in balance amid the economic storm.

The Seattle-based company said the layoffs, which are the first for RealNetworks, affected 140 out of 950 employees. RealNetworks added that it also has plans to make significant reductions in discretionary spending.

"The way the economy is going generally and the tightness in our own market segment, we had to take steps to keep our costs in balance and make sure we manage wisely during the slowdown so that we can grow smartly when we come out of the slowdown," said Eric Liu, vice president at RealNetworks.

The move shortly follows RealNetworks' earnings report last week. The company fell short of analysts' estimates in its second quarter and lost its chief financial officer, Paul Bialek, who resigned from his post for personal reasons but will remain with the company as a strategic adviser.

Liu said the affected employees were notified this afternoon on an individual basis. The remaining employees, he said, were asked to leave the building so that the company could conduct meetings with the affected employees regarding severance packages.

RealNetworks is offering those that were laid off six weeks to 15 weeks of severance pay, depending upon their length of service. The affected employees will receive health insurance through the month of October. The company is also providing professional seminars and will open a career transition center to provide the affected employees with services such as access to phone lines and the Internet so that they can make a better transition, Liu said.

RealNetworks develops software products and services that enable people to send and receive audio, video and other multimedia services using the Web. The company has been in a bitter digital race with Microsoft in which both are competing to take a foothold in the market for streaming video and audio.

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