Portable Media: Fee or Free

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Comin’ up next on The Violence Channel: An all-new “Ow, My Balls!” — Idiocracy

C/Net reports a distinctive new Web music service and portable music player called Slacker (FAQ) was announced at the SXSW Festival.

Slacker “personal radio” device combines satellite radio, a standard portable music player and a Wi-Fi-enabled gadget with 10,000 custom music channels. Users can tailor according to their taste, covering virtually every possible genre.

Slacker built its player and radio service around the company’s own proprietary technology that takes advantage of unused commercial satellite signals to send data.

Just what “unused commercial satellite signals” they’re talking about is unclear. Wired says it will lease bandwidth from existing Ku-band satellites and utilize WiFi.

The portable device (from $149 to $299), comes preloaded with a variety of tracks. It will have a 4-inch color display for advertising, album art and band bios. It will support MP3, WMA, WMV and MPEG-4 files. Consumers who purchase the device can opt for the ad-supported free Web service or buy the ad-free premium radio service for $7.50 per month.

The Slacker Web radio service will be free to anyone, but supported by video ads.

Users have “ban” and “heart” buttons that helps to weed out and endorse music on each station. If you’re listening to, say, ’90s pop and an Ace of Base song comes on, hitting “ban” ensures you’ll never hear that song again. Clicking “heart” tells Slacker you want to hear similar music and also saves the song to your personal library. This is also where another of the key distinctions between the free and premium versions comes in: users of the free version can only hit “ban” six times an hour, but can “heart” an unlimited number of tracks.

Slacker says it has licensed all music on its service from major record labels and says the Webcasting royalties issue that arose last week does not apply to it since Slacker is licensing the music directly from labels and doesn’t use terrestrial broadcast signals.

Some companies, such as Pandora Media, already provide online music-customization services, but analysts say Slacker is the first to make “personalized music” portable not tethered to a laptop, desktop computer or home media server.

“They’re leveraging multiple distribution channels, so they won’t be just satellite radio and they’re not quite an online music provider either,” said IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian. “And they’re providing a high level of ease-of-use for the consumer that no one else has offered before.”

The company has raised $13.5 million in its first round of venture capital, from Sevin Rosen, Austin Ventures and Mission Ventures, VentureBeat reported.

Tech Crunch says Symbian Series 60 users should take a look at MyStrands mobile, a music sharing app that creates social playlists – you and your buds can share music – and discovery though tags and search. The service accesses a collection of six million songs and connects directly to your MyStrands page.

Meanwhile NBC Universal and MobiTV announced today a deal to make full-length primetime on demand programming available over US wireless networks. In addition to its primetime VOD line-up, the two companies will offer select short form programming from Bravo, SCI FI Channel, USA Network, Telemundo and mun2 on five new ad-supported channels to subscribers, which will debut on the MobiTV service in second quarter. MobiTV has also demonstrated a unified multicast and unicast television solution for Mobile WiMAX.

Fox News is partnering with Third Screen Media to inject mobile advertising throughout its properties. Third Screen Media will insert banner advertising on Fox News’ mobile Web site. While no further plans have been announced, Fox News will likely add video advertising and other forms of advertising using Third Screen’s technology at a later date.

DailyWireless has more on satellite radio and mobile tv.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Wednesday, March 14th, 2007 at 10:55 am .

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