Free of defunct parent, Rio hires Porter Novelli as AOR

SANTA CLARA, CA: Rio has risen from the ashes of SonicBlue, its former consumer-electronics parent company, which went out of business earlier this year. And now the maker of mp3 players has hired Porter Novelli as its AOR to help get the word out that it is alive and kicking.

SANTA CLARA, CA: Rio has risen from the ashes of SonicBlue, its former consumer-electronics parent company, which went out of business earlier this year. And now the maker of mp3 players has hired Porter Novelli as its AOR to help get the word out that it is alive and kicking.

After SonicBlue went belly up, Japanese home-electronics company D&M Holdings, which owns companies such as Denon and Marantz, won a bankruptcy-court auction for Rio and ReplayTV, both former divisions of SonicBlue.

Rio now exists as its own company, and must deal with rebuilding its brand and pushing its mp3 players in a crowded market that is facing a mass audience, not just so-called early adopters.

"We have already set the groundwork to talk about how we are out from under [SonicBlue]," said Kevin Brangan, Rio's VP of product marketing. "The folks in this space have understood Rio for what it is. We have some pretty worthy competitors. Messaging is critical, because these are not just products for early adopters or the bleeding edge, but the masses."

Rio's brand is "part and parcel" with the product line, and the company will seek to promote both simultaneously.

With mp3 players now listing from $80 to $400, the company hopes to reach a broad spectrum of holiday shoppers. Brangan pointed out that 80% of mp3 players sold use Flash technology, while the other 20% use hard drives, like Apple's iPod.

"We want to be one of the top-three Flash-player makers by 2004, and one of the top-two hard-drive player makers as well," he added. While the hard-drive players get quite a bit of attention because they can hold thousands of songs, Brangan said the cost of such players often keeps buyers away.

"And I don't know too many people who have 5,000 songs they want to put on a player," he added, hoping Rio's lower price point will attract more music fans, particularly teens.

"The Rio brand is a counter-culture brand," said Porter Novelli SVP Sandy Skees. "We will be proliferating the role of the brand. Rio has a very broad range of products, and this market is the perfect blend of technology and consumer markets."

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