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Originally published March 27, 2014 at 10:53 AM | Page modified March 28, 2014 at 10:51 AM

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Amazon preps video event for possible set-top box debut

The online retail giant invited media to a gathering in New York next week that could be the much-rumored unveiling of a new streaming media device.

Seattle Times business reporter

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advertising invited journalists Thursday to a news conference in New York next week that is widely speculated to be the debut of a new set-top box from the online retail giant.

The company said the gathering, at Milk Studios in Manhattan on Wednesday, will be “an update on our video business,” according to the invitation. Peter Larsen, a vice president in Amazon’s Kindle division, will host the event.

Rumors began circulating last year that Amazon was readying a streaming media device that would connect to televisions and compete with gadgets such as Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Roku. Most recently, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Amazon device would hit store shelves in early April.

The device would likely carry many of the same streaming media applications as its rivals, including Netflix, Hulu and Pandora. But it will give Amazon, whose Amazon Prime Instant Video service is on many of those competing gadgets, the ability to control how its services are offered without having to rely entirely on key rivals.

What’s more, Amazon is said to be developing a video-gaming business, something that could couple well with a set-top box. The device would allow Amazon to generate revenue from game sales. And it could collect valuable information, to be used in Amazon’s burgeoning advertising business, about the way its customers watch video, as well as give Amazon another tool to market to those consumers.

Amazon declined to comment about the media gathering.

Separately, The Wall Street Journal, citing unidentified sources, reported Thursday that Amazon is working on an advertising-supported streaming television service. According to the paper, the service would run both original and licensed programming, and offer them with advertising.

Amazon spokeswoman Sally Fouts said Amazon is not working on a free video offering.

“We’re often experimenting with new things, but we have no plans to offer a free streaming media service,” Fouts said in an email.

Amazon already has Amazon Prime Instant Video, a Netflix-like subscription video-streaming service that is ad free. According to the Journal, the company has discussed producing “Betas,” a show that has been running on Amazon Prime Instant Video, for the ad-supported project.

The paper also reported that Amazon plans to offer free music videos with advertising to people visiting its retail website.

Jay Greene: 206-464-2231 or Twitter: iamjaygreene

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