Real CEO: EC ruling could help in $1bn action

For now concentrating on RealPlayer 10 and content...
Written by Tony Hallett, Contributor on

For now concentrating on RealPlayer 10 and content...

RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser has spoken out in favour of the European Commission's recent ruling against Microsoft, saying it will also help his company in its private lawsuit against the software giant.

In London this morning to promote European versions of the company's media player software, RealPlayer 10, Glaser said: "The Commission did the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons."

Last December, Real hit Microsoft with its own private lawsuit, saying it has been illegally using its Windows monopoly in the media player market. It is seeking in excess of $1bn.

Although strangely quiet at the time of the EC announcement, when asked today by silicon.com if it will help Real's action, Glaser said: "My lawyers tell me yes. It's a positive development, the first time any jurisdiction has ruled on media players."

Real has pointed out on more than one occasion that it didn't initiate the EC's investigation - which began five years ago - but that it contributed to it.

"It is much better to establish a legal precedent that there was a violation," Glaser said, adding that he thinks consumers and PC vendors will benefit as a result.

Following the EC ruling two weeks ago, 10 US Congressmen wrote to competition commissioner Mario Monti calling for him to reconsider the decision and accompanying €497m fine.

Ironically one politician to be outspoken about the European course of action is Washington senator Maria Cantwell. Both Real and Microsoft are based in Washington state, but she was a senior vice president at Real between 1995 and 2000 and still holds several million dollars-worth of Real shares.

However, Glaser said: "She was a member of the lower house before [joining] Real and her statements have been balanced. She believes in the marketplace and that it's always better to have a marketplace solution - and by the way we agree with that."

He said that bluster against European regulation should be taken with a pinch of salt during a US general election year, with such comments likely to come across to voters as more "pro-US" than anything else.

Yesterday, Real announced a major deal with BT Rich Media for its Helix Universal Server and Helix Service Delivery Suite, used for services aimed at consumers and small businesses that want to create and share content.

It has also announced a deal with Virgin Radio, one of the biggest stations worldwide over the internet, to broadcast using RealAudio 10. This win sits alongside other premium content such as that carried for Channel 4 and European football governing body UEFA, which offers a Champions League package including video highlights for €4.95 per month.

Real and UEFA won't reveal how many subscribers that service has - past efforts by Yahoo! to stream valuable football content at the 2002 World Cup were also shrouded in secrecy - but the software vendor says it has 1.3 million premium subscription users worldwide. Around three-quarters of revenues come from consumer services such as paid-for RealPlayer downloads, and a quarter from licensing deals with user organisations and companies such as BT.

Real is currently in a quiet period with its first-quarter results due at the end of the month. Over the past six quarters revenues have been increasing at the company but a profit hasn't been seen since the tech slump kicked in.

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