Connecting Consumers to the Entertainment Experience

Consumers have an appetite for networked multimedia, according to a recent survey by market research company Parks Associates. 9/18/2006 8:00 AM Eastern

Connecting Consumers to the Entertainment Experience

Sep 18, 2006 12:00 PM

Consumers have an appetite for networked multimedia, according to a recent survey by market research company Parks Associates. Now it’s up to manufacturers to come up with a satisfying menu of products and content.

According to a survey of 3,447 households, Parks’ Networks in the Home: Connected Consumer Electronics report says that 39 percent of homes with a broadband data network placed a high value on multimedia applications. More significantly, of the broadband homes surveyed without a network, 37 percent placed a high value on multimedia networking. That leaves a market potential of about 16 million households, the report concludes.

“Multimedia networking applications, such as sharing media files on a network or streaming content from a PC to one or more entertainment platforms, are key aspects of the connected entertainment experience consumers are demanding,” says Harry Wang, research analyst at Parks. “The job of cultivating consumers’ appetites for a connected entertainment experience and translating their interest into concrete sales figures rests not only with technology providers and CE manufacturers but also content providers and distributors,” he adds.

Sonos has gotten the message. The developer of the Sonos Digital Music System, which uses wireless meshed network technology, has just updated its software to enable customers to access Rhapsody Web Services over any Sonos device. Users pay a $10 monthly music fee to access Rhapsody’s multi-million track library—all without having to power up a PC.

The Sonos move could point to the future of music distribution. Ironically it’s not kids who were weaned on MP3s that are the target of the system, which starts at $999 for a two-room setup. John MacFarlane, founder and CEO of Sonos, says the company is targeting baby boomers who have the expendable income for the four-figure system but aren’t willing to put in the time to rip their CD music collections to a PC hard drive.

At the high end, Crestron announced last week that it will include MusicGiants' MediaStore in its Adagio audio servers. Users can browse MusicGiants’ collection of high-definition music and purchase music for download to the Adagio server. According to said Chris Wildfoerster, director of business development for Crestron, the MusicGiants partnership allows its dealers to offer clients “a streamlined process for acquiring the highest quality content available."

Another next-gen music download device comes by way of NuVo Technologies. The NV-M3 Music Server ($2,199) uses a portable music player model for downloading and storing Microsoft Plays for Sure-certified DRM content. Consumers download music to their PC’s Windows Media Player, which then syncs with the NuVo player. The streamlined, dual-storage process provides security and backup over a Cat-5 extender system using USB cables on either end. The NV-M3’s 160-gigabyte hard disk stores 40,000 WMA songs at 128kbps. MP3 and WAV files are also supported.

TiVo will take digital video recording to the next level in video downloading in October when it launches the TiVo Series 3 HD Digital Media Recorder. The advanced chipset under the hood lays the groundwork for future download features. Series 3 is the first THX-certified DVR and the first TiVo product to support over-the-air ATSC broadcasts. Built-in Ethernet jacks and USB ports provide a path to home networking.

With Series 3 broadband-connected users will be able to download video programming from sources including The New York Times, CNET, the NBA, iVillage, and others when the services debut later this year. TiVo Online Services show photos shared by friends over Yahoo! Photos as well as local weather and traffic. Users will also be able to order movie tickets from Fandango and listen to podcasts via TiVo.

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