RealNetworks Spins Off Rhapsody (Which Leaves What, Exactly?)S

For Viacom, RealNetworks' partner in the Rhapsody venture, a spinoff is a chance to get rid of a bleeding appendage. For Real, it's like losing a failing—but vital—organ.

Ever since people stopped needing the RealPlayer plugin for anything other than streaming reports from their town's third most popular local news station, and replaced RealPlayer with iTunes, Windows Media Player, VLC, MediaPlayer Classic or pretty much anything else, Rhapsody has effectively been RealNetworks' thing. I mean, what else did they have? Their DVD ripping software was killed by the courts. RealArcade is fine, but marginal. Their video and audio streaming tech is outmodedl To top it all off, last month, their founder and CEO stepped down after fifteen years at the helm.

It's hard to say what'll happen to Rhapsody now, given that it won't have Viacom's resources and connections to fall back on, and that some of Rhapsody's more visible marketing—namely their partnership with MTV—will probably dissolve. Maybe they'll even move to distinguish the Rhapsody client from Real, I don't know. But at least Rhapsody has Rhapsody. RealNetworks, as it stands, has somewhere over 1,500 employees (though it's not clear how many could be sent to Rhapsody), and apparently, nothing to do with them.

I don't know what's Real anymore!

UPDATE: A RealNetworkser tipped us off to their TPS Division, which helps major carriers build RingBack tone systems, VOD and music download services, and help building branded streaming services for other sites. It accounts for their business, but it leaves RealNetworks generally out of sight to consumers. RealNetworks as a company still has some kind of role; as a brand, not so much. [MediaMemo]