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Profile: Merrill Brown

Feb 10, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Title: Senior VP, RealOne Services with RealNetworks. He oversees the consumer side of RealNetwork’s business, including SuperPass, which contains content from a number of TV networks such as ABC, CNN and Fox Sports.
Background: Mr. Brown joined RealNetworks in August 2002 after spending six years with MSNBC.com, which he helped launch in 1996. He most recently served as senior VP and editor in chief. He also helped start CourtTV in 1990.
Real snapshot: RealNetworks currently counts more than 300 million Real Players deployed worldwide on computer desktops and more than 850,000 paying subscribers for RealOne.
A moment in time: “We’re at a critical juncture in the evolution of media on the web. Many media companies are figuring out subscription models so they have solid underlying business plans. Access to general newspapers and mass media Web sites should remain free, but within them there is a chance for premium subscription services. That’s something they are [exploring] and should explore.”
News on the Web: The online coverage of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 demonstrated the viability and appetite for online video, Mr. Brown said. “It demonstrated how important it is to have business models for video on the Web for breaking news,” he said. CNN.com and ABCnews.com have both migrated their online video offerings over the past several months from a free model to a paying one through RealOne. “Here are two global news organizations (CNN and ABC) showing [that] the way to make video make sense on the Web from a financial and journalistic standpoint is to put it behind a firewall. There is a huge appetite for breaking news video on the Web, and there is a business model for it,” he said.
The next step: News, sports and music work well through Real’s service, and TV content will be next, said Mr. Brown. “We think people will be watching TV series and sitcoms on TV screens in the back seats of cars and on small handheld TVs. We are appliance-neutral and have and will expand relationships with wireless providers so you can stand in a bus stop and watch Peter Jennings. And we think you will do that in an on-demand way using Real services,” he said.