RealNetworks’ (NSDQ: RNWK) 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31 should be required reading for anyone going into a complex JV or the online music business. Line by line, it lays out the risks of the Rhapsody America joint venture with MTV Networks, all the more interesting giving RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser’s admission last week that Michael Bloom, the MTVN Urge exec who has been running the JV since it was formed, has gone back to MTVN (NYSE: VIA). In his place, at least for now: Glaser.
As the 10-Q details, Real, with its 51 percent of the JV, has the right to appoint the GM but certain activities require unanimous approval — items like a budget, some capex, affiliate transactions — and failure to agree could cause harm. It gets more blunt: “Neither we nor the current management of Rhapsody America have extensive experience in managing and operating complex joint ventures of this nature, and the integration and operational activities may strain our internal resources, distract us from managing our day-to-day operations, and impact our ability to retain key employees in Rhapsody America.”
That’s not the only issue musically speaking: Licensing fees, competition by rights holders, and more, larger subscription churn rates and more, Real is careful to mention them all.