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Definition: digital media hub

A digital media hub is a device that switches multiple streaming services from the Internet to a stereo, TV or home theater system. Each service requires an app, and several are built in. Additional apps may be downloaded and installed the same as any program on a computer or mobile device.

The media hub, which is known by an abundance of names (see digital media hub terminology), connects to the user's network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi and to an HDMI port in the TV or A/V receiver. Music-only hubs connect to the audio inputs of a sound system (see A/V ports).

Apple TV and Roku are the most widely known media hubs; however, this same functionality is also built into Blu-ray players, smart TVs and A/V receivers.

Servers Are Hubs with Storage
In contrast to a digital media "hub," a digital media "server" is a hub that also stores its own content (see digital media server).

A Local Network Streamer as Well
Although hubs are popular for access to Netflix, Hulu and other content providers, they can also stream photos, music and videos from computers in the home network. To stream local content, Apple TV users run iTunes in their PCs or Macs, and Roku hubs require Plex (see Apple TV, iTunes, Roku and Plex). See smart TV, Fire TV, Android TV, Media Center Extender, A/V receiver and digital convergence.

Media Hub Connections
Digital media hubs hook into the network over Wi-Fi or Ethernet and to the A/V equipment via HDMI. Earlier hubs had analog outputs for old TVs.

Blu-ray Players May Also Be Hubs
This earlier Oppo BDP-103 streams video from Netflix, YouTube and other networks. It plays SACD and DVD-Audio discs and also streams Pandora. (Images courtesy of Oppo Digital, Inc.)

Clever, But No Longer
One of the few non-Apple products that supported Apple's iTunes, this Roku SoundBridge hub (top of cabinet) was the only music hub with a display large enough to read from a distance. See Roku.