New RealPlayer Downloads Web Video for Playing Off the PC

RealNetworks (s RNWK), having been knocked out of much of the online video craze, is trying to be scrappy about adding new features. That’s why two years ago it launched a version of its player that enabled users to download videos from around the web, entering a helper software domain largely shunned by its larger competitors. The company still has some clout; RealPlayer 11 has been downloaded 300 million times since then.

Video to BlackberryBut once you have videos offline, what do you do with them? Real today is launching RealPlayer SP, which gloms on social and portable features. Beyond the market-standard Facebook and Twitter integration, the additions might actually be something consumers find more useful, because today it’s not easy to move videos onto a mobile device in a format it can play.

Basically (at least in the PC version), Real slaps on a little tab anywhere it finds a video on a page, inviting the user to download, move and share the video. Then, Real automatically converts the video to the right format (not just RealVideo) for a BlackBerry, Nokia, iPhone, iPod or Xbox. The drawback is, the whole scheme requires a lot of advance planning about the video you want to watch on-the-go.

Further, downloading streaming content isn’t something content owners love. Many video sites actually prohibit it. For instance, YouTube states in its terms of use: “Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use only and may not be downloaded, copied, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, broadcast, displayed, sold, licensed, or otherwise exploited for any other purposes whatsoever without the prior written consent of the respective owners.” Real’s response is that it doesn’t work on sites that put DRM around their videos, such as Hulu.

The beta of RealPlayer SP is available for free starting Wednesday. For $39.99 users can upgrade to H.264 video conversion and DVD burning. RealPlayer SP works only on PCs for now; a Mac version won’t be available until at least the end of the year. Real said eventually it hopes to add features such as basic video editing and Wi-Fi or over-the-air transfer.