BRISTOL, PA -- AMI Entertainment Network Inc., a digital jukebox and TV content company, is planning to offer music videos across its jukebox network. The music video service could go live by the end of the year.
The genre has been around for decades, even before MTV (which no longer plays music videos) started airing them in 1981. Song-length juxtapositions of music and images go back, at least, to Walt Disney's "Fantasia" and song-and-dance routines in movie musicals. The visual side of rock was leveraged in movies, from Elvis Presley in "Jailhouse Rock" to the Beatles in "A Hard Day's Night," among many others. By the late 1970s, it was common for record companies to produce promotional films and video clips to give musicians exposure beyond their touring circuits.
PHOTO: From left, Tony Paszkiewicz of Columbia Amusements (Baltimore) gets latest on upcoming music video jukebox service from AMI's Brian Aune and Chris Owens during Amusement Expo in Las Vegas.
Since the 1980s, there have also been a dozen or more attempts to produce video jukeboxes. Rowe International, AMI's antecedent, was most successful, supporting a videocassette system through the mid-1990s. Rowe's 200-select 45-RPM jukeboxes from the early 1980s could be equipped with two Toshiba BetaMax players, which connected to a video control unit and synchronized video clips with music. In the '60s, Rowe sold a 16mm. film-synchronization attachment for jukeboxes called PhonoVue.
The music video category, once nearly obsolete, is now making a comeback, thanks to YouTube and other Internet sources. "The time is right to bring music video to jukeboxes," said AMI president and chief executive Mike Maas, who announced the new service on March 20 during the Amusement Expo in Las Vegas. Once prohibitive, licensing fees are now within a practical range, Maas explained, and AMI has received approval from the labels to begin building a music video catalog. AMI's music video exhibit was among the most talked about at this year's exposition.
The AMI chief executive did not reveal detailed information about the financial structure of the program, but he said operators would not see a difference in the subscription-based digital jukebox business model. At the point-of-sale, video will be offered as a premium purchase (requiring additional credits). Music video selections will be assimilated into the jukebox user interface, and play on separate a display. They can also play on a location's televisions and those running on AMI's Tap TV system, when the latter is idle.
The music video service is designed for the NGX jukebox, AMI's flagship hardware platform. But video will require optimal computer power, so AMI has developed the High-Performance Core, which has more processing speed and memory than the original NGX motherboard. The HPC and original board have the same footprint, so it will be available as an upgrade for existing NGX boxes.
The HPC will be installed on all new NGX models, including the NGX Face Place, a jukebox-photobooth hybrid. (AMI is also making several interface improvements to the Face Place juke. New software will enable fund sharing between the photobooth system and jukebox, permitting the same credits to be used for both music and photo vends.) The new board will only add about $100 to the cost of any NGX system.
Introduced two years ago, the Rowe NGX, which stands for Next Generation Jukebox, is AMI's best-selling product -- Maas reported there have been more than twice as many sold as the popular NiteHawk, a wall-hanging Internet jukebox in the Rowe line. "NGX is more than a jukebox," Maas said, "it's a long-term platform that could be augmented with skins and technology." Smart Skins, decorative frames that lock onto the exterior of the unit to provide a new look around the box's 32" vertical screen, are prominent NGX features. The HPC is an internal expansion.
Bristol, PA-based AMI Entertainment Network Inc. no longer includes Megatouch videogames; AMI's music and games divisions became separate entities in January. Megatouch LLC offers the ML-1 and other touchscreen videogames, along with Prize Farm SWPs. In addition to jukeboxes and music services, AMI offers Tap TV, which now supports Tap TV Trivia, a bar game controlled by personal smartphones.