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RealNetworks leads pack in multicategory site traffic

The dominant online presence of RealNetworks could be the biggest advantage for Rhapsody America, its newly announced joint digital music venture with MTV Networks.

Real, which includes the existing Rhapsody music service, was the most-visited multicategory entertainment destination last month with about 39 million unique visitors, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Real beat Apple's iTunes, which will be the main rival for the new Rhapsody, by nearly 8 million visitors.

Multi-entertainment destinations are sites that cover two or more entertainment subcategories. The metric counts users of Real's video software, including the popular RealPlayer, as well as iTunes' video offerings.

Rhapsody was fourth in the online music category in July with about 8 million visitors. Urge, the digital music service MTV started with Microsoft in May 2006 that will be replaced by the new Rhapsody, had 1.5 million visitors.

With their sights on Apple's dominant iTunes digital music platform, MTV and Real, along with Verizon Wireless, said last week that they would merge their digital music services to create Rhapsody America. Real will own 51% of the service, with MTV taking the remaining 49%.

With tens of millions of users already in place, Real could jump-start MTV's online presence. With slightly less than 10 million visitors in July, MTVN's music site, MTV.com, was a distant third in the online music category behind Yahoo Music and AOL Music, which had 20 million and 19 million visitors, respectively.

The Viacom property has pledged $230 million during the next five years to marketing Rhapsody America.

The service also will benefit from its partnership with Verizon, the second-largest mobile network in the U.S. with 62 million subscribers. Subscribers to the company's VCast service also will be switched to Rhapsody.

The new service's biggest competition will be Apple's digital combination of iTunes, its iPod and the iPhone. Apple's market share of the digital music download market has been estimated at more than 70%.

Nielsen//NetRatings is owned by the Nielsen Co., parent company of The Hollywood Reporter.
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