Netflix Unfriended by Facebook TV

Facebook took some air out of the Netflix balloon when it announced its own movie streaming media service Tuesday. Working with Warner Brothers Digital Distribution, Facebook is testing a video service that will let users rent movies for $3, or 30 Facebook credits. The first installment of the trial is the 2008 Batman movie The Dark Knight, and users can have access to the rental for 48 hours. The move was not welcomed by Netflix investors who see Facebook's 600 million-member social media site as a formidable challenge to company's $8-a-month video streaming efforts. Netflix shares fell more than 4% to $199.30 in early trading Tuesday. Given Facebook's immense reach and the apparent ease at which it can keep users on the site while they watch movies, the move certainly threatens the Netflix model. Not only does Facebook give the studios access to its vast membership, it can also deliver advertisers a big group of consumers with shared interests.

Stewart Filmscreen's Silver 5D is chosen for art installation

Stewart Filmscreen Corporation® is announcing its participation in the RealTime UnReal installation commissioned by the Museum of the Moving Image. The exhibit, RealTime UnReal, designed by Thomas Soetens and Kora Van den Bulcke of Workspace Unlimited, utilizes Stewart Filmscreen's Silver 5D material to demonstrate the pinnacle of modern 3D i capabilities. The installation addresses the fusion of physical and digital space, employing 2 stereoscopic projections on a double-sided projection screen and game engine software customized by the artists, capturing visitors in the physical space and displaying them in an imaginary world. The virtual world seems to occupy physical space like a sculpture in the museum, an alternate reality floating in midair. Walking around the virtual world alters its viewpoint, reveals impossible perspectives and simultaneous occurrences, and disrupts its architecture. Realtime Unreal challenges visitors to bridge the gap between what their eyes perceive and what their minds believe is unreal. "Stewart Filmscreen's Silver 5D screen was a essential component to the exhibit due to its wider viewing cone and increased center to edge brightness uniformity," stated Thomas Soetens, Director/Leading Artist of Workspace Unlimited. "The RealTime UnReal exhibit is an immersive, interactive display that encourages visitors to walk around the screen making the ability to have 3D off-axis viewing a necessity for the success of the project."

Audiovox, Klipsch Deal Closes

Audiovox completed its acquisition of Klipsch Group for $166 million. As a wholly owned subsidiary of Audiovox, Klipsch Group will operate as a stand-alone entity that will continue to be run by its current management team in its current Indianapolis headquarters, Audiovox said. Audiovox expects the addition of Klipsch to generate about $170 million in additional net sales and $25 million in EBITDA in fiscal 2012, which started March 1 of 2011. Revenue for the combined companies in fiscal 2012 will be around $730 million "with potential upside for growth based on market conditions and continued execution of strategic growth initiatives," the company added. Audiovox president/CEO Patrick Lavelle said the acquisition of Klipsch's worldwide properties "gives us entre into the high-end installation market at both the residential and commercial level." In addition to its top market position in the U.S., "Klipsch brands are recognized throughout EMEA, the Americas, and the Asia-Pacific region, and we plan to continue expansion into other key international markets." Lavelle continued. He also said Audiovox intends to continue to support Klipsch's R&D capabilities and its quality reputation, both of which he described as "second to none." The purchase was financed through Audiovox cash and a new $175 million asset-based revolving credit facility.

Jetstream HD Brings Content To Any iPad, Anywhere

You might say that the world simply doesn't need another streaming media device. And you could be right. But could we use another streaming media device that actually does something different and unique? Yeah, we could get into that. JetStream HD might be that device. Rather than being a software solution, this is actually a software + hardware combination. The product launched this week at DEMO Spring 2011, with a $199 box promising to change the way iPad users think about streamed content. In time, the product will be able to stream to iPhones, iPod touches and maybe even Android phones. The $199 box accepts an Ethernet cable, which is used to link it to a PC/media storage system in your home. From there, it can be connected to a wireless router. Than, any content on a home PC or server can be streamed to the iPad on-the-go, over the Internet. JetStream HD requires that users are authenticated via an iOS app, which ensures that only they can view the media. This enables remote access viewing of the content, and it works well with both Wi-Fi or 3G connections. Of course, 3G viewing will look a bit softer, but that's the nature of the beast.

CEA ANNOUNCES FINALISTS FOR 2011 MARK OF EXCELLENCE

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® today announced the finalists for the 2011 Mark of Excellence Awards. Presented by CEA’s TechHome Division to honor outstanding achievement in custom home electronics, winners will be announced at an awards reception on Friday, March 18, 2011, during the 12th annual Electronic House Expo (EHX). EHX 2011 returns to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, March 17-19, 2011. CEA’s Mark of Excellence Awards honor the most innovative custom home electronics products, services and installation technologies. Entries are submitted in Supplier and Systems Integrator categories, and reviewed by a panel of independent industry experts. Each category features Platinum and Gold awards for outstanding industry achievement. The Mark of Excellence Awards Reception will be held at the Orange County Convention Center, Room W221, on Friday, March 18 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tickets are $49 and can be purchased online. Click to view the finalists for the 2011 Mark of Excellence Awards.

Elan Offers Home Control Demo Kit

Elan has developed an aggressively priced demo system that dealers can use to demonstrate an Elan g! home-control system in their showrooms or in customers' homes. Dealers can also use the system to control all of the systems in a demo room. The system, which ships in preconfigured demo mode, consists of a controller, 7-inch touchscreen, 4-inch tabletop touchpad, HR2 remote, amplifier, two tabletop Sunfire speakers, a Panasonic IP camera, g! Pro Apps, and all parts needed to connect the products except for a TV, which is needed to demonstrate the system's on-screen display. The demo system is sold pre-configured in demo mode, enabling dealers to play music, view and control the IP camera, and demo all other system applications. The standardized icon-based interface runs across TVs, touchscreens, touchpads, PCs, iPhones and iPads. The system's IP backbone enables control from around the world.

Amazon steps into Netflix space with stream plan

Amazon.com said Tuesday morning that it has launched a video-streaming media plan for subscribers to its Prime service - in direct competition with Netflix Inc. "Competition is good for consumers and the studios, bad for Netflix," said Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan, who carries a sell rating on Netflix shares. Amazon said it will allow subscribers to its Prime service the ability to stream unlimited, commercial-free movies and TV shows. The company said more than 5,000 titles are available through the service. Prime customers pay $79 a year for access to free, two-day shipping on most orders from the online retail giant. The video streaming service will be available free of additional charge to these subscribers, Amazon said.

Colorado vNet Resurrected Again

Russound has announced, just two months after the Colorado vNet division was to be shuttered for a second time, that the brand has once again been revived. "Colorado vNet is back - stronger than ever! We're moving forward with the product line and have some exciting developments in the works," Charlie Porritt , CEO of both Colorado vNet and Russound, wrote in a letter Friday to dealers. He added that the revived Colorado vNet will add both an IP-based digital music streamer and iPad application.

Meridian Posts Gains On Smaller Dealer Base

By Joseph Palenchar -- TWICE, 2/18/2011 New York - Meridian America significantly scaled back its dealer base and product selection beginning in 2009 yet posted a 12 percent sales gain in 2010, CEO Peter Wellikoff told TWICE. Meridian grew by focusing more resources on fewer, more committed dealers and by taking more of a luxury position in the A/V market, he explained. With its greater focus on the luxury market, Meridian brought in new staff with a luxury-market background and opened up its U.S. headquarters here for use as a dealer showroom to demonstrate Meridian's high-end audio and video products to high-level business executives, athletes and actors who don't shop in retail stores, Wellikoff said. The company plans to make this strategy "bi-coastal," he noted. Meridian also began to support dealers whose high-profile customers want a demo in their own homes. For these dealers, Meridian flies out products and staff to set up and demo a system in the potential customer's home and let the homeowner live with it for a day. About 90 percent of the time, Meridian staff makes the presentation to the consumer, but the dealer sets up the appointment and profits from the sale. All home demos to date have closed a sale, Wellikoff noted.

Redbox's Streaming Media Service To Rival Netflix Still In The Works

Redbox, whose brick-red DVD vending machines are scattered across the country, is aiming to have a Netflix-like video streaming subscription service up and running by the end of 2011, company executives told investors this week. The development of the service has taken longer than expected because it has involved negotiations with several potential go-to-market partners, according to Coinstar CEO Paul Davis, speaking at a Feb. 16 analyst day. Coinstar is Redbox's parent company. "So we could have moved a lot quicker quite a few months ago had we decided to do this on our own," Davis said, according to a transcript of the presentation. "But we made a conscious decision as a team to not do it on our own because the price tag of doing that was prohibitive. We also didn't feel like we could have an offering working on our own that would distinguish ourselves and be a real winning proposition." Davis did not disclose which companies Redbox has been approaching about a partnernship. Separately, Amazon.com reportedly is readying a service that would stream 5,000 movies and TV shows members of its $79-per-year Prime free-shipping membership program.

CEDIA UK AWARDS 2011 - SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED…

CEDIA Region 1 is proud to announce the short list for the CEDIA Awards 2011. From English country homes to stunning super yachts sailing the world and private villas in Arabia and Africa, this year's short list celebrates the best residential custom installation projects with a heady mixture of excellence touched by the exotic. "We are delighted with the high standard of entries in this year's Awards which has proved a major challenge for our judges in the short-listing process" says Robert Hallam, CEDIA Chairman and Chair of Judges. "We are also really pleased to see integrators from across the Region participating in the scheme. A total of 10 different countries have competed in the scheme this year with entries from the UK, Netherlands, Cyprus, Portugal, South Africa, UAE, Italy, Belgium, Denmark and France, helping to increase awards entries by 16% on 2010. The Awards provide a great showcase for our industry, and this year the breadth, depth and quality of integration and innovation is as impressive as ever". View Shortlist here.

Hulu Plus lands hundreds of international films

US online video service Hulu is branching out into world cinema, adding hundreds of classics from the likes of Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, and Federico Fellini to its line-up. The company has struck a deal with the Criterion Collection, adding 150 titles to its premium Hulu Plus subscription service from today, with a further 650 to come. The roster of directors also includes Michelangelo Antonioni, Robert Bresson, Luis Bunuel, Jean Cocteau, Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and a string of others - not to mention Charlie Chaplin, although the latter's selection will initially comprise only some early shorts.

Home Control company Control4 & Cisco Strike Partnership

Cisco and home control supplier Control4 have entered into an agreement in which Cisco will invest in Control4, use Control4 technology in Smart Grid infrastructure and services that it will sell to utilities, and sell Cisco-branded and Control4-branded products. Under the global agreement, Cisco will sell products through its value-added resellers (VARs) into homes in conjunction with utilities' deployment of Cisco's Smart Grid technologies, which are designed to reduce energy consumption. Cisco will also sell products through its VARs to developers of so-called greenfield cities, built on the outskirts of existing cities usually outside the U.S. In both channels, VARs would sell products to control energy use as well as home automation and control lighting, entertainment, communication and security systems. As a broad rule, control systems would be Cisco-branded, and peripherals such as lighting-control systems would be Control4-branded. The deal provides Control4 with additional resources as well as worldwide distribution channels that "will expand our reach dramatically" by "leveraging the Control4 platform to every single home in these communities," said Control4 CEO Will West. The deal will also open up opportunities for custom integrators who could later add onto a basic Cisco Smart Grid EMS 100 energy-management system, he said.

Netflix streaming media finally arrives on Boxee Box

Boxee announced today that Netflix streaming media is finally available to owners of the company's Boxee Box. In order to access Netflix streaming media, users will need to either wait for the automatic update to take effect within the next 24 hours or manually update their set-top boxes. "Netflix support was the most common request we had on our blog comments, forum posts, tweets, etc.," Boxee CEO Avner Ronen said in a blog post accompanying the announcement. "We heard you loud and clear. We were bummed that we could not make it happen earlier, but are very excited to have it out today." When the Boxee Box first launched in November, the company said that it would make Netflix available by the end of 2010. After hitting some snags, it promised that Netflix was "still on track" for a launch at the end of January. Earlier this month, Boxee said in a blog post that it wasn't able to hit its self-imposed deadline because it had "not yet satisfied Netflix's security requirements." Luckily, that wait is finally over. But now Boxee has some catching up to do. Netflix streaming media has been running for quite some time on several of the device's competitors, including the Apple TV, Roku set-top boxes, and the Logitech Revue, among others.

SONY, DISCOVERY AND IMAX TO LAUNCH 3NET, THE 24/7 3D TELEVISION NETWORK

3net, the joint venture television network from Sony Corporation, Discovery Communications and IMAX Corporation today announced that DIRECTV will be the first distributor to launch 3net, the 24/7 3D network, beginning February 13, 2011. 3net will initially be available to millions of DIRECTV customers across the country. 3net will go live at 8:00 PM ET on DIRECTV (channel 107) with a primetime slate featuring world premieres of new, one-hour, native 3D original programs CHINA REVEALED and FORGOTTEN PLANET, in addition to the world 3D television premiere of INTO THE DEEP 3D. Throughout February, the network will offer an unprecedented rollout of original 3D series and new program debuts every night at 9:00 PM ET. 3net will deliver compelling, native 3D content to the marketplace and thus serve as a critical driver for consumer adoption of in-home 3D entertainment. The partnership's commitment to the emerging 3D market is historic, with plans for the channel to offer viewers the largest library of native 3D entertainment content in the world by the end of 2011.

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