RealNetworks Files Lawsuit Against Online Baseball Broadcaster

It alleges that Major League Baseball Advanced Media violated an agreement by favoring Microsoft's Windows Media Player over Real's media player.
SEATTLE (AP) -- RealNetworks Inc. sued the company that broadcasts major league baseball games over the Internet on Tuesday, alleging it is violating an agreement by favoring a rival media player from Microsoft Corp. over Real's music and video player.

RealNetworks accuses Major League Baseball Advanced Media of breach of contract in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle. RealNetworks is seeking to make MLB Advanced Media offer users the option to see and hear games with Real's technology, along with other formats such as Microsoft's Windows Media player.

The suit comes three months after Seattle-based RealNetworks filed a lawsuit accusing Microsoft of anticompetitive behavior in the digital media player market.

Jim Gallagher, a spokesman for New York-based MLB Advanced Media, called the allegations "without merit."

He also said MLB Advanced Media will continue to honor its agreement with RealNetworks. But he refused to comment on the details of the agreement between the two companies, citing a confidentiality agreement.

The dispute comes as RealNetworks is fighting to maintain a major presence in the digital media market. Windows Media Player controlled about 34 percent of the market in the United States, compared with nearly 19 percent for RealOne player and 10 percent for Apple Computer Inc.'s QuickTime player, according to January data from Nielsen/NetRatings.

Until recently, online baseball had been one of Real's strongholds. Between the 2001 and 2003 baseball seasons, Real had an exclusive arrangement with MLB Advanced Media, meaning that users could see or hear games on only in the Real format.

But Real spokesman Greg Chiemingo said the companies signed a new contract last month in which Real no longer had exclusive rights. Instead, Real claims people who used were supposed to get the option of having games broadcast using Real or another format, such as Windows Media Player.

As of Tuesday, Chiemingo said users who go to can listen to some game clips for free using the Real format. But if users try to buy a premium service, he said the system automatically switches to Windows Media Player. Real claims that is in violation of the contract, but Chiemingo would not provide details of the agreement.

Real also has filed a federal lawsuit against Microsoft, alleging it has violated state and federal antitrust laws, in part by illegally tying its Windows Media Player software with copies of the ubiquitous Windows operating system.

Microsoft has said it conducts normal competitive activity and has accused Real of using the lawsuit to try to gain market share.

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