There are a growing number of ways to stream music through the television, from Google’s Chromecast dongle and YouTube’s app for smart TVs through to Apple TV, Spotify on Sony’s PlayStation consoles and beyond.
Now Omnifone founder Rob Lewis is joining the battle with Electric Jukebox, a startup whose device of the same name is pitched as a “plug-and-play” streaming service for mainstream music listeners.
It’s a stick that plugs in to an HDMI port on a television, then streams music over Wi-Fi, accessed using a dedicated controller with gesture and voice input. The likes of Robbie Williams and Sheryl Crow are on board as playlist curators.
Launching in the UK and US, Electric Jukebox will cost £179 / $229 including a year’s access to its entire catalogue of music, before reverting to a £60 / $60 annual subscription – although anyone declining to pay will still get the free radio stations element.
“Mass market streaming has finally become a reality,” said Lewis, on characteristically tub-thumping form. “Electric Jukebox gives you an Internet of Things for music – the modern hifi – for the whole family to share – the streaming equivalent of a radio or a fridge freezer – plug in and play, literally.”
Meanwhile, the company’s board of advisors includes a host of industry veterans: former U2 manager Paul McGuinness; and former label execs Rob Dickins, David Munns, Alain Levy, James White and Amanda Conroy.
There are plenty of challenges, though. With competition like Fire TV (£34.99 for the basic version, and £79.99 for the new one); Chromecast (£30) and Apple TV (£tbc for its new version), the £179 Electric Jukebox risks looking overpriced. Will people go for a TV-only streaming service versus one that also works on their computers and mobile devices? Why no music videos on a service designed for the TV?
There is merit to the company’s argument that connected hi-fis can still seem intimidating to mainstream music listeners, despite the efforts of Sonos and others. But Electric Jukebox has plenty of work to do (not to mention a whole heap of marketing) to become a more convincing solution than the living-room hardware/service offerings from Amazon, Google and Apple, as well as the cross-device appeal of rival streaming services.