IHS: Internet-Connected TVs Represent 70% of TV Shipments in 2018

Internet-connected televisions featuring third-party apps are expected to generate 70% of total global TV shipments in 2018 – up from 64% in 2017 and 45% in 2015, according to new data from IHS Markit. Global TV shipments are projected to rise 3.5% to 223 million units.

“The rise of streaming video availability worldwide, especially for special events like the World Cup and Olympics, along with continued growth for global streaming video services, have encouraged strong growth in smart TV sales in recent years,” Paul Gagnon, research and analysis executive director at IHS Markit, said in a statement.

Growth of smart TVs is being driven in part by streaming video, which consumers increasingly consider to be a basic TV function comparable to broadcast reception.

Streaming remains the only way to access ultra-high-definition (UHD) content for most consumers, with smart TV reinforcing the value of 4K resolution screens, which are now being sold at mass-market prices. At the same time, the effect of government-imposed mandatory interactivity for TV services in Brazil and Argentina has boosted Latin America into the top three global regions for smart TV adoption.

Android is currently the most popular smart TV operating system platform, including both the full Android TV implementation and modified versions used by many Chinese TV brands.

IHS expects Android will continue to gain share through 2022, as a common third-party platform with native support for Google Home. Proprietary smart TV platforms from Samsung (Tizen) and LG Electronics (WebOS) are the second- and third-most popular smart TV operating system platforms.

According to IHS, Roku TV and Fire TV, currently only available in North America, will gain share, as brands seek common platforms from increased margin pressure. Over the next five years, Roku TV is expected to expand beyond North America. Fire TV might also become available in other regions, provided the U.S. partnership between Amazon and Best Buy is successful.

“The increased availability and integration of Amazon Alexa, Google Home and other popular digital voice assistants will further increase demand for smart TVs in 2018 and beyond,” said Gagnon.

Amazon Introduces Voice-Controlled Fire TV Cube

Amazon June 7 announced Fire TV Cube, a hands-free 4K Ultra HD streaming media player with Alexa, allowing consumers to control their TV “from across the room,” according to the company.

Fire TV Cube uses multi-directional infrared technology, cloud-based protocols and HDMI CEC, that—combined with Alexa—let viewers control their compatible TV, sound bar, A/V receiver, and cable or satellite box. Consumers can use voice commands to turn the TV on and off, change the volume, switch to different inputs, and change the cable channel. Even with the TV off, consumers can ask to watch a show and the Fire TV Cube powers on the TV and starts playback where consumers left off.

Amazon Fire TV Cube gives consumers access to the catalog of content currently available on Fire TV, including tens of thousands of channels, apps, and Alexa skills, as well as more than 500,000 movies and TV episodes and thousands of 4K Ultra HD and HDR titles, according to the company. Consumers can use voice commands to access services such as Netflix or to switch the cable channel.

“We believe voice makes it easier for customers to control their entertainment systems and watch the TV and movies they care about,” said Marc Whitten, VP of Fire TV. “And, it’s just the beginning. Amazon Fire TV Cube will only get better over time with the Alexa service always getting smarter.”

With the Fire TV Cube, consumers can also use voice commands to find the movies and TV shows by such categories as genre, director and actor.

WIth Fire TV Cube, many Alexa responses are optimized for the big screen and accompanied with rich visual information, allowing consumers to view smart home camera feeds, watch video flash briefings, view sports scores, see extended weather forecasts, and watch trailers for movies playing in nearby theaters, according to Amazon.

Amazon Fire TV Cube is available for pre-order starting June 7 for $119.99 and ships with an IR extender cable and Ethernet adapter beginning on June 21. As an introductory offer, Prime members can pre-order Fire TV Cube on June 7 and 8 for a special price of $89.99 — a $30 savings. For a limited time, customers can pre-order Fire TV Cube and Amazon Cloud Cam together for $199.98 — a $40 savings. Customers who purchase and register their Fire TV Cube by July 1, will also receive a $10 credit for Prime Video. Starting on June 21, Fire TV devices are eligible for unlimited access to tens of millions of songs with Amazon Music starting at just $3.99/month.

For more information visit www.amazon.com/firetvcube.

Amazon CFO: Voice-Activated Alexa a ‘Positive Surprise’

Amazon hit a fiscal Q4 home run in North America. One of the revenue drivers was the Echo Dot featuring voice-activated Alexa software.

With more than 30,000 skills, Amazon embeds Alexa in more than 4,000 smart-home devices from 1,200 third-party CE brands.

Proprietary Fire TV Stick and Echo were the best-selling products in 2017 across all of Amazon. Both devices enable users to search, stream and buy movies and TV shows using voice commands. Echo can now – finally – also send text messages.

“We are very happy with the results of Alexa, it’s a very positive surprise for us,” CFO Brian Olsavsky said on the Feb. 1 fiscal call.

The executive said Alexa use on Fire TV is up 900% from a year ago, with music consumption up 300% over the winter holidays.

“That’s far exceeding our expectations,” Olsavsky said. “The relationship with external companies is actually helping to accelerate the adoption of Alexa with customers.”

Separately, Amazon wants to emulate North American success internationally, notably in India, which includes 17% of the world’s population, or 1.32 billion people.

The e-commerce behemoth bowed Prime India in July 2016, followed by the global launch of Prime Video in December 2016. Olsavsky said Prime adoption in India was the fastest in Amazon’s history, featuring more than 25 million local products.

Amazon also launched Prime in the Netherlands and Luxembourg, adding the ability for customers in Belgium to shop in Dutch.

Finally, Amazon this year launches second seasons of “Goliath” and “Sneaky Pete,” followed by the third season of “The Man in the High Castle,” the fourth season of “Bosch,” and “Mozart in the Jungle.” Other original content includes new episodes from “The Tick,” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” and “The Romanoffs.”

Chinese TV Maker Hisense Selects Amazon Alexa

Following an industry trend linking voice-activated technology with consumer electronics, Chinese TV manufacturer Hisense and Amazon Jan. 3 announced the ecommerce behemoth’s voice-control system Alexa will be available for the first time on select models of Hisense 4K Smart TVs – including a 100-inch UHD Laser TV.

Hisense’s Smart TVs include apps from Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube, among others. In addition, Alexa-enabled Hisense 4K Smart TVs will offer a wide variety of voice features to help users control certain primary functions, including voice commands, changing inputs and controlling volume.

Alexa also connects to music services like iHeartRadio and Pandora, in addition to myriad skills enabling users to shop for groceries, gifts and ordering take-out. Alexa also enables users to connect to other smart home products, including lights, air conditioner, heater and other connected devices.

“While content providers and other TV manufacturers tend to focus on quantity of content, Hisense recognizes that the future is all about simplicity, making it easy for consumers to find and watch their favorite content, play music, control their smart home and more,” Mark Viken, VP of marketing, said in a statement.

Notably, Hisense entered the U.S. market manufacturing branded Roku TVs, while opting not to use the streaming media device pioneer’s new voice-activated technology. Indeed, Hisense has a history of incorporating Alexa in smart home products.

“[Hisense is] bringing Alexa directly to customers’ living rooms,” said Steve Rabuchin, VP, Amazon Alexa. “This means customers can do things like turn the volume up, control their smart home, get a movie recommendation or even order dinner on select models – with just their voice.”