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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 April 2007, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Week Two: New Media Family
By Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology correspondent, BBC News

Meet our New Media Home family

The year 2007 is shaping up to be the year of a new media revolution - and one family in Gloucestershire, in the UK, is going to be at the cutting edge.

New video-on-demand services are launching almost weekly - from BT Vision to Channel 4's 4oD to Joost - and more and more music is being sold online.

So the BBC has fitted out the Boston family with the kind of kit you might need to take full advantage of a world where all the media you want arrives in digital form down your phone line.

It's week two so the BBC's New Media Family have had plenty of time now to get used to the equipment we have installed in their home. So how are the two youngest members of the Boston family getting on?

And what do their viewing and listening habits tell us about future media trends?

Seventeen-year-old Emily and 13-year-old Olivia ought to know more about getting music and video from the internet than their parents. They are what the marketing experts call "digital natives" - part of a generation for whom it is second nature to use sites like Myspace, YouTube and iTunes for their media needs.

Apple TV
Samsung 37inch HDTV
Belkin Wireless router
Acer Aspire iDea 500 media center PC
Apple TV (pictured)
Apple MacBook
Sonos wireless music system
Kodak wireless digital photo frame

So far, though, they have been most excited by the arrival in their home of a high definition television connected to a Sky HD box which can record whatever they want. Until now, they've only had a video recorder to catch up on favourite programmes.

"I really like the HD telly," says Emily. "And we're using Sky Plus to record all sorts of stuff - then it's there if we want it." And Olivia says that is changing their viewing habits: "We seem to be watching it a bit less because you can record it - you don't have to be in front of the TV all the time."

But what about the services we really wanted them to test out - internet music and video? Well, the wireless Sonos music system sending music to very room in the home has been a huge hit. "In the hot weather it's been great to listen outside," says Emily.

They have also been experimenting with the Apple TV set-top box which takes video and music from the laptop computer they have been loaned and puts it on the television. After some early glitches, it seems to be working, and the girls have been using it to view Youtube clips.

Like their parents, however, the teenagers are struggling to get to grips with downloading favourite programmes like Ugly Betty. They are quite computer literate - but have found that some services like Channel Four's 4OD are not compatible with their Windows Vista Media Centre.

But perhaps their generation is more interested in using sites like Youtube to play around with video on the internet rather than going to traditional media services?

Download videos

"We've got Myspace and Bebo accounts," says Emily. "So you can download videos you've made on your mobile phone and put them on YouTube - then you can stick them in a flashbox on your Myspace page." They are also finding comedy clips and music videos, then transferring them to their Myspace pages to share them with friends.

You find some of the sites muck up your computer because they've got viruses on them, so I find it easier to use iTunes
Emily Boston

It is just the kind of behaviour that is causing sleepless nights for the major media businesses as they try to work out what consumers will be doing in 10 years' time. The other real worry is whether these digital natives will be willing to pay for anything , after getting used to finding whatever they want on the internet for free.

But good news for the music industry comes from the Boston girls. They are happy to pay for tracks they download.

"People are obviously more inclined to go and use a free site," says Emily, "but you find some of the sites muck up your computer because they've got viruses on them, so I find it easier to use iTunes."

They find out about new bands online. "You hear about them on Youtube and other sites," says Olivia.

But bad news for the future of the album - the girls find they are mostly picking and choosing favourite tracks rather than downloading a whole album.

Our new media teenagers are part of a generation which has more choices than ever before. It seems they are responding by becoming more choosy and active in their media habits than their predecessors. In a week where one expert has warned of the dangers to children of watching too much television, it seems the junior couch potato may already be an endangered species.

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