Just because your favorite sitcom is over doesn't mean you need to flip off that fancy new flat-screen TV set. Seattle startup GalleryPlayer Media...

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Just because your favorite sitcom is over doesn’t mean you need to flip off that fancy new flat-screen TV set.

Seattle startup GalleryPlayer Media Networks believes these thin, wall-hanging panels are ideal frames for a digital art gallery.

The company has developed a technology to transform art, photos and other images into a digital format that can be displayed — oil brush strokes and original colors intact — on any size screen. It has signed more than 20 licensing deals with major image sources, including National Geographic, the Time/Life Picture Collection and the Andy Warhol Foundation.

Monday, the company plans to announce it has secured its first $4 million in venture capital, with the investment led by Menlo Ventures, the Silicon Valley venture-capital firm in Menlo Park, Calif.

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Some of the art and images GalleryPlayer manages have never been available for the mass market because of copyright issues. The company has found a way to copy-protect the images, so that no one can reproduce and resell them.

Much as they would access a digital music playlist, consumers can download images and create their own galleries to display in their living rooms. Depending on the consumer’s mood, visions of Venice waterways, samples of Picasso’s masterpieces or a glimpse at the man on the moon can flash above the couch.

“Why have that dark space when you could have something that really adds to the room?” said Chief Executive Craig Husa.

GalleryPlayer Media Networks


Provides digital images for high-definition display

Headquarters: Seattle, in Pioneer Square

Formed: January 2003

Formerly known as: RGB Labs, BeOn Media

CEO: Craig Husa

Employees: 24

Funding: Private

Web site: www.galleryplayer.com

With cellphone ringtones turning into a multibillion-dollar business and new chic technology appearing each month, GalleryPlayer is tapping into the consumer’s desire to add a little artistic pizzazz to tech products.

It is supplying high-definition images via the Internet, and very recently, through cable and satellite networks.

Images from the Web have too low a resolution; projected onto a wall, they would look fuzzy.

GalleryPlayer’s biggest competitor is Roku Labs, a California company that uses hardware called a PhotoBridge. Through the unit, consumers can insert slides of images or a digital camera card to show off on the TV screen.

GalleryPlayer images cost the consumer $7.99 to $19.99 for 5 to 15 images, or $1.99 for singles, which are available now through Windows Media Center.

The flat-screen TV has to be hooked up to a computer with high-speed Internet to display the images, which cannot be printed out.

Cable providers may offer the images as part of the basic package, but that varies with the provider, said Husa.

The company was founded 2 1/2 years ago by Scott Lipsky, who bought a flat-screen TV and wanted to display artwork on it.

A former vice president at Amazon.com and founder of an Internet ad agency, Lipsky found it was nearly impossible to do so without paying exorbitant amounts of money. So he started GalleryPlayer with $6 million in angel funding.

The company plans to use the $4 million in venture capital to contract with more image sources and expand the database of gallery selection. The money will also be used to expand GalleryPlayer’s presence on cable and satellite TV, which the company hopes will be available in Seattle in six months, said Husa.

The company declined to disclose financial information but said it expects to be profitable by the end of next year. It wants to expand from 24 to 30 employees by the end of the year, with an emphasis on marketing.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst of the Enderle Group, said the service is the only one on the market for high-definition displays, and consumers are likely to use it to show off the hardware that, on average, starts at about $1,000.

Analysts expect the flat-panel market to grow to 51 million units sold by the end of this year worldwide, and to 370 million units in 2009.

But even as prices drop, Enderle warns that GalleryPlayer’s images may not become the TV default standard that company seeks.

“How many people really buy that much art?” he said. “As the market moves more mainstream, and millions buy into hi-def, there will only will be a percentage that go for a service like this.”

But those who have invested in GalleryPlayer are confident every consumer will immediately be attracted to the service.

“The purpose of this is sort of the passive-viewing experience. When you turn off your TV, what are the images that appeal to you as an individual?” said Shawn Carolan, managing director of Menlo Ventures.

“There will be value to have art on the wall for years to come,” said Husa.

Christina Siderius: 206-515-5066 or csiderius@seattletimes.com