Executives: Media Centers Are a Must

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Cable operators have a big role to play in media center technology, but exactly how that will pan out is a matter of debate.

Panelists at a Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing of the Rocky Mountains chapter seminar here last week stressed the importance of cable's participation in home networking and media centers.

“The DVR [digital video recorder] was a no-brainer,” said Time Warner Cable senior vice president of set-top boxes and advanced technology Mike Hayashi. Now, he said, “we have multiple competitors for our customers,” and new technology keeps arriving, like DVD recording embedded in consumer DVRs.

“I have to have a response,” he said. “They key for us is to exploit personalized content,” such the ability to move photos from the PC to the TV or music from the PC to home-stereo units.

Charter has deployed Digeo's Moxi media center set-top in Rochester, Minn. The key for Charter is to position the benefits of new technology, and not the technology itself, said David Housman, vice president of corporate development and technology.

Customers want to sort and store their media — pictures, music or video — he said, and any company that makes that easier will win the hearts and minds of customers.

“Media centers will be much larger than anyone anticipates,” said Real Networks Inc. senior vice president, international Dan Sheeran. He disclosed the No 1. request from Real's Rhapsody subscribers: “How do I listen to this in my living room? Once that's there, the take rates will be very, very high,” he said.

Panelists emphasized that it must be easy to operate the complicated media centers that link devices.

“Our product has to be user friendly,” Hayashi said. “We have to remain an easy connection point.”

That includes the new portable video players now emerging. Such devices make “your content and your connection more valuable,” said Microsoft TV general manager of marketing Lynne Elander.

In the end, cable needs to integrate with new devices and new consumer behaviors, panelists said.

“We should embrace new services,” Hayashi concluded. “If we don't do that, we will lose that customer to another competitive business.”

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