REALNETWORKS, a Seattle-based company working on streaming video and audio content, is making huge waves all across China as it fills a niche left behind by Google when it abandoned its operations in the land of the Great Firewall.
RealNetworks presents a rare case study of a foreign company that has willingly gone along with China’s strict censorship laws, reported South China Morning Post. The company provides streaming services within a Chinese market where vloggers and live-stream idols are some of the biggest celebrities around. RealNetworks capitalized on the absence of Google to drive up adoption of its technology, including its RealPlayer software, which was one of the first media players in wide availability back in the 90s.
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News emerged that RealNetworks would be helping local digital broadcasting network, CIBN Oriental Network (Beijing) Co. implement their video compression technology, RealMedia HD. It’s a canny move in a time where China’s population has high smartphone penetration and makers are increasingly turning to the power of content made for the small-screen.
CIBN is part of a joint venture between China Radio International and Youku-Tudou, which counts itself as China’s most-watched video streaming platforms. This partnership with CIBN is indicative of RealNetworks’ understanding that the way into China is through its people, which is a sharp divergence from the reluctance of other foreign firms to work with local partners for fear of losing intellectual property.
“Google has a complex relationship with the Chinese market, the fact that Google is one of our major competitors may have helped us a little bit in China, that’s hard to say,” said the company’s founder Rob Glaser in an interview with SCMP.
“We are focused on getting our technology used in the broadest possible way in the market. We were not focused on other agenda.”
RealNetworks sees small, but high-quality content minus a huge price tag as a significant driver of business for them in China. Video compression technology has the potential to drive down costs for businesses while still maintaining a high level of quality, according to Glaser who estimated that RealMedia’s application saves 40 to 50 percent of overall content quality for half the size of Google’s VP9.
China is currently in the midst of moving into next generation telecommunications network (5G) as it struggles to keep up with a rapidly digitizing economy. 5G systems are supposedly 20 times faster than today’s LTE networks, which, when coupled with RealNetworks’ technology, could prove formidable. Glaser sees China’s thirst for ubiquitous content delivered quickly has advantaged RealPlayer. “A technology like ours in video compression is especially valuable in this market where people are trying to get the best possible quality that they can in bandwidth constrained environment,” Glaser said.