RealAudio 8: More for less

Format's latest incarnation is said to offer CD-quality audio at 66 kb/s
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The latest version of RealNetworks'audio format, RealAudio 8 offers improved audio quality with less bandwidth, a move the company says will allow broadcasters who stream audio over the Internet to cut costs by cutting bandwidth requirements.

"There's an opportunity for broadcasters to bring the cost of what they're paying for bandwidth to about two-thirds of what they pay today, and the quality will be commensurate to that delivered previously," says Ben Rotholtz, general manager, products and systems, RealNetworks. "And if you're an infrastructure provider, the efficiency is that, where you had two channels before, you can now have three channels."

RealAudio 8, he explains, will deliver in only 20 kb/s what required 32 kb/s in RealAudio 7. "We're excited about this for one simple reason, and that's that audio is a common denominator and we're changing that common denominator, which then has huge effects and benefits."

Broadcasters can use RealAudio 8 by visiting Real.com's Web site and downloading and installing the RealProducer version 8.5. "If you're streaming today at 32 kb/s, you'll start streaming at that bit rate, but users will have a choice to lower the bandrate," Rotholtz adds. "What excites me is there are others who will want to broadcast in CD-quality audio and they'll up it to 66 kb/s."

The workflow for those already using RealNetworks changes very little, he says. "It's compatible with RealPlayer 7, so the infrastructure is there to do it."

Another technical improvement is that RealAudio can now handle bandrates from 16 kb/s to 352 kb/s, thanks in part to the use of Sony's ATRAC3 codec. "The ATRAC3 takes the higher end of the spectrum-100 kb/s to 352 kb/s-so that completes the spectrum," Rotholtz explains. Sony has a number of different codec technologies, with this one, now in its third generation, developed for portable devices.

The extension up to 352 kb/s allows RealNetworks to more easily fulfill its desire to offer an easily scalable experience. "The whole notion we have with our system is you drop audio in and it scales to the best possible experience across the spectrum, regardless of device," Rotholtz says.


Top 15 CABLE-TV sites /August 2000/

<p> <span class="small" id="d9e28-11-small">Site</span> </p><p> <span class="small" id="d9e33-15-small">Average unique pages per month</span> </p>



ESPN*



45.4



CNBC.com



34.3



CNN.com



17.2



FoodTV.com



13.4



TVLand.com



12.9



SCIFI.com



12.5



CartoonNetwork.com



12.4



EOnline.com



11.3



Weather.com



11.2



USA Network.com



8.2



VH1.com



8.1



ComedyCentral.com



7.6



MTV.com



7.2



Fox.com sites*



7.0



Total WWW



703.2


Gender Composition of top 15 sites/August 2000

<p> <span class="small" id="d9e212-161-small">Site</span> </p><p> <span class="small" id="d9e217-165-small">Composition by age (%) Persons 2-17</span> </p><p> <span class="small" id="d9e222-169-small">Men 18+</span> </p><p> <span class="small" id="d9e227-173-small">Women 18+</span> </p>



Weather.com



5.8



54.7



40.7



CNN.com



4.9



61.1



33.9



ESPN*



10.4



63.4



26.2



EOnline.com



6.8



50.5



43.3



Discovery.com



7.9



41.1



51.0



MTV.com



30.2



33.5



36.2



CartoonNetwork.com



37.0



25.6



37.4



FoodTV.com



2.7



42.5



54.8



FoxNews.com



3.0



62.9



34.1



CNBC.com



4.1



71.7



24.2



Fox.com sites*



16.2



57.3



26.5



VH1.com



13.7



41.4



44.9



SciFi.com



5.3



55.7



39.0



HGTV.com



3.5



29.0



67.4



ComedyCenteral.com



25.1



57.0



17.9



Total WWW



19.0



40.4



40.7

Source: Media Metrix

* Represents an aggregation of commonly owned/branded domain names.

Media Metrix Definition:

Average unique pages per visitor in a month: The average unique pages viewed per day by those persons visiting a specific Web site or category, at home and at work.

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