Markets for Streaming, Compressed Audio Players Expanding

The number of home users of standalone media players — the software that plays digital audio or video, whether offline or online — increased 33.2 percent, from 31.3 million in January 2000 to 41.7 million in January 2001, according to Jupiter Media Metrix. The number of users of media players at work increased 34.9 percent, from 11.6 million in January 2000 to 15.7 million in January 2001.

“While aggressive bundling campaigns have long since pushed ownership of multimedia players to nearly 100 percent, usage over the past year has been driven by the increasing quality of the user experience,” said Steve Coffey, executive vice president and chief development officer at Media Metrix. “Greater connection speeds, more efficient content delivery, as well as better and more content are among the key factors that will continue to move this trend forward.”

According to Media Metrix, RealNetworks widened its lead among home users through its RealPlayer streaming media player, which enables real-time access of digital audio and video over the Internet, as well as its RealJukeBox audio file player. In January 2001, 25.9 million U.S. Internet users at home used a RealNetworks player, up 47.6 percent from January 2000; 21.5 million used Windows Media Player, up 31.2 percent; and 7.3 million used QuickTime, down 8.4 percent (see table).

RealNetworks also has the largest share of users at work: In January 2001, 10.5 million U.S. Internet users at work used a RealNetworks player, up 52.1 percent; 9.0 million used Windows Media Player, up 39.9 percent; and 1.9 million used QuickTime, up 8.5 percent.

RealNetworks’ growth has been driven, in part, by its arrangement with AOL Time-Warner, which makes RealPlayer the default, embedded player within the latest versions of the AOL proprietary online service (versions 6.0 and Plus). According to Jupiter Media Metrix, RealNetworks’ arrangement with AOL Time-Warner contributed an additional 2.3 million potential home users of RealPlayer in November 2000, and an additional 2.8 million potential home users in December 2000, pushing its U.S. home audience from 22.8 to 25.1 million in November and from 22.0 to 24.7 million in December.

The number of RealPlayer users from AOL continues to increase. The newly released January 2001 data show that with the incremental AOL audience counted, RealPlayer now has 25.0 million potential home users and 10.2 million potential work users, or a U.S. audience share of 30.7 percent at home and 34.6 percent at work.

The market for MP3 and other compressed audio players is also expanding — both in terms of vendors and the type of new, innovative devices being produced. According to International Data Corp. (IDC), worldwide compressed audio player shipments will continue to grow at a torrid pace, increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 51 percent, from 3.3 million in 2000 to nearly 26 million in 2005. Compressed audio player shipments in the United States will follow a similar growth path, jumping to 18 million in 2005 from 2.8 million in 2000.

“The market for compressed audio players will continue to grow, and it will grow significantly beyond devices resembling the original, portable Rio-like units,” said Susan Kevorkian, analyst for IDC’s Consumer Devices program. “Because of the cost and capacity constraints of flash memory, an increasing number of vendors and consumers alike are turning to cheaper alternative media to transport their music. This is opening up opportunities for more interesting and innovative products to develop. Toward the end of the forecast, alternative media devices will have a strong worldwide presence.”

Portable systems will continue to dominate the market, according to IDC. By 2005, this segment will comprise 61 percent of both U.S. and worldwide compressed audio player shipments and more than half of the worldwide market value.

“New product innovations have brought exciting changes in storage capacity and functionality,” said Bryan Ma, senior analyst for IDC’s Consumer Devices program. “By 2004, we expect portable hard-drive-based jukeboxes to outship basic portables. In addition, MP3 decoding capabilities are increasingly being added into traditional portable CD players, thus enabling them to outship basic portable compressed audio players in the United States by 2003.”

Despite the dominance of this category, IDC believes growth in other form factors, including automotive, home networked receivers, and streaming Internet radios, will occur, although much more slowly.

Use of Standalone Multimedia Players
U.S. Home Internet Users
Jan. 2000 Jan. 2001 Percent

Reach % Unique

Reach %
All Standalone Media Players 31,304 40.0% 41,700 51.1% 33.2%
RealNetworks Players
(w/AOL Potential)
17,555 22.4% 25,909 31.8% 47.6%
(w/AOL Potential)
16,791 21.5% 25,002 30.7% 48.9%
RealJukebox 3,098 4.0% 3,537 4.3% 14.2%
Windows Media Player 16,414 21.0% 21,543 26.4% 31.2%
QuickTime 7,955 10.2% 7,288 8.9% -8.4%
Source: Jupiter Media Metrix

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