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A/V Servers Download Music, Video Without PC

DENVER — MusicGiants, which offers “high-definition” music downloads in Windows Media Audio (WMA) Lossless format, announced agreements with U.K.’s Imerge, Niveus Media, Crestron, Inteset, and Xperinet to include MusicGiants’ MediaStore in their home media servers.

The five joined Audio Design Associates (ADA) at the CEDIA Expo in demonstrating broadband-connected audio servers that download music directly from the MusicGiant’s site without using a PC.

The agreement also enables licensees of Imerge’s XiVA platform to incorporate the MusicGiants store. Companies offering XiVA-based servers include Crestron, ELAN, Speakercraft, Niles, Revox, Xantech and Marantz. “The licensees that employ Imerge’s new XiVA hardware/software architecture will be able to take advantage of this feature if they choose to do so,” Imerge said.

Also at the show, MusicGiants announced a licensing deal that enables MediaStore-equipped A/V servers to download music videos and concert videos in 480p, 720p, 1,080i, and 1,080p formats. NuTech Digital will provide 18 classical and ballet videos in standard definition and eight concerts in HD to A/V servers such as one from Niveus Media.

With MusicGiants-enabled audio and A/V servers, “users will be able to browse our entire library and purchase music from the comfort of their couch via a remote control,” said MusicGiants CEO Scott Bahneman. All told, more than 500,000 music files will be available on the site by the end of the year at $1.29 per song or $15.29 per album on the MusicGiants site, which can also be accessed by PCs.

For MusicGiants, music and music videos are just the start. At CEDIA the company announced licensing agreements with NuTech Digital for HD and SD downloads of music and concert videos, but MusicGiants hopes to add a mix of old and new movies and TV shows. NuTech’s video library includes more than 600 DVD concerts, a growing library of HD music concerts, feature films, Japanese animation and late-night programming, all capable of being downloaded through NuTech’s digital rights management (DRM) platform.

NuTech offers original and licensed content via distributors, retailers and Internet companies, including Warner Music Group and CinemaNow, the video-to-PC download service.

Akimbo already offers a video-download service that uses set-top boxes instead of PCs to download video, but it delivers standard-definition video. Akimbo’s content is focused mainly on niche content from cable networks. It includes more than 11,000 videos and movies from content providers such as the Discovery Channel and Major League Baseball.

In five to seven years, Bahneman predicts, “it will just be assumed by consumers that [Internet downloading] is a way to get music and video to the home.”

MusicGiants is targeting the same demographic as custom installers. The customers are expected generally to be more than 30 years old and relatively affluent. They’re also music enthusiasts who are concerned with audio playback quality, the company said.

Because of target customer’s concern for music quality, the company is using WMA Lossless for its download service and supporting music-file bit rates of up to 1.1Mbps compared to other download services’ 128-256kbps. Multiple MP3 portables also support WMA Lossless. With a three-minute song requiring about 12MB of storage space, more than 1,600 songs could be stored on a 20GB portable.

For these consumers, the company plans multichannel music downloads and is wrapping up licensing agreements with music companies to offer more than 200 multichannel titles at launch. A launch date hasn’t been announced.

Last year, MusicGiants also offered its own site-accessing server, but the device was discontinued because installers preferred to work with their existing server suppliers, whose products were already configured to integrate with multiroom audio systems, said Bahneman.