Amazon Building Its Own Smart Televisions

As one of the world’s largest companies, Amazon is taking the unprecedented step of building its own brand of Internet-connected smart televisions instead of licensing units with third-party original equipment manufacturers such as LG, Samsung and related Chinese makers.

The first-ever Amazon-built smart TVs include the Amazon Fire TV Omni Series and 4-Series smart TVs, and the all-new Fire TV Stick 4K Max.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The Fire TV Omni Series will be available in 43-inch ($409.99), 50-inch ($509.99), and 55-inch ($559.99). The Fire TV Omni Series with Dolby Vision will be available in 65-inch ($829.99), and 75-inch ($1,099.99). The Fire TV 4-Series will be available in 43-inch ($369.99), 50-inch ($469.99), and 55-inch ($519.99). All TVs will be available next month in the United States, exclusively at Amazon and Best Buy. Starting Sept. 9, shoppers can save $110 on the 50-inch Fire TV Omni and 4-Series models for a limited time during the introductory period.

Fire TV Stick 4K Max will be available in the United States for $54.99.

“We’ve reimagined what a TV can do by building it with two of our most popular experiences at the core — the intelligent always-available power of far-field Alexa, and Fire TV’s content-forward approach to entertainment,” Daniel Rausch, VP of Amazon entertainment devices and services, said in a statement. “Our new Fire TV Omni Series smart TVs, with hands-free access to Alexa, make controlling your TV faster, simpler, and more natural.”

NPD: Strong First-Half Sales Projected to Increase 7% for U.S. Consumer Electronics Industry in 2021

The pandemic helped drive consumer electronics sales in 2020, and that momentum is continuing in 2021, according to new data from The NPD Group. As a result of strong sales and rising retail prices in the first six months of the year, The NPD Group said U.S. consumer technology revenue in 2021 is expected to surpass 2020 totals by 7%, while unit sales for the year will see a 1% decline.

Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD estimates sales for 2021 will reach more than $113 billion, up 4% increase from earlier estimates. In 2022 and 2023, NPD expects revenue to be down year over year 7% and 4%, respectively, and unit sales will see a 6% and 5% decline.

“The higher than expected [average selling prices] we are seeing in the market today can be attributed to increased shipping costs, component shortages, consumer readiness to trade-up to a higher cost product to meet their needs, and lack of promotional activity,” Stephen Baker, VP and industry advisor, said in a statement.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Baker said the aforementioned factors have driven total revenue projections up, but higher prices would inevitably lead to lower consumer demand, resulting in unit sales declines in categories such as TVs, networking devices, and printers in the back half of the year.

“Following the historically high sales in 2020 and 2021, we are anticipating near-term declines with a slow climb back to normalcy by the end of 2023,” he said.

The current third quarter is forecasted to be the most challenging revenue quarter for the CE business since the pandemic began due to difficult comps to Q3 2020. But NPD’s forecast predicts a temporary return to revenue growth in Q4 2021, up 2% year over year, despite a 5% decline in unit sales, again driven by pricing and product availability. This is noteworthy revenue growth given the strong CE sales recorded in Q4 2020.

“Revenue growth in Q4 will be driven by higher prices in the industry’s most popular holiday categories like big-screen TVs, PCs, gaming and audio,” said Ben Arnold, executive director and tech industry analyst at NPD. “As consumers trade-up to better, more feature-laden technology products, they will also have to contend with fewer and shallower promotions.”

NPD: Online Represented 61% of Consumer Electronics Sales During Pandemic

Accelerated by temporary store closures and consumer hesitancy to shop in-store during the pandemic, online U.S. consumer technology hardware revenue share rose to 61% during the 12 months through March — up from 48% in the previous-year period, according to new data from The NPD Group.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based research company said online revenue grew 62%, up more than $36 billion. Online technology revenue share peaked at 68% in Q2 2020, during the height of lockdowns, and despite declining since then, remained above the long-term trend at 57% in Q1 2021. This was 7% above Q1 2020, and 14% above the pre-pandemic share in Q1 2019.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Notebooks, TVs, tablets and headphones made up 43% of in-store sales, the same as the previous 12 months. Online sales of those categories saw a revenue share increase from 33% to 37%. NPD said online sales of notebooks, tablets, and headphones saw a dramatic shift from in-store, resulting in higher category e-commerce sales than in-store. TVs were the outlier, with the majority of revenue remaining in-store despite lockdowns and growth in online sales.

“While technology hardware sales have moved online at a more rapid pace than other general merchandise categories, the acceleration of this change, and the passing of the 50% milestone as a consequence of the pandemic, represents an important shift,” Stephen Baker, VP and industry advisor for the NPD Group, said in a statement.

The analyst said there remains substantial opportunity for in-store retailing and growth in buy-online-pick-up-in-store activities that need to be fulfilled by retailers at the local level.

“As evidenced by the continued dominance of TV buying in-store, physical presence benefits categories where product features cannot be demonstrated as effectively online,” Baker said in a statement.

While the growth in online sales presents challenges to physical retailers, much of the online revenue increase was actually a result of retailers selling through online channels or using their stores for e-commerce transactions.

In-store pick-ups accounted for 12% of all online consumer tech revenue through March, an increase of two percentage points from the previous period. In fact, NPD reported that when combining in-store pick-up transactions and normal product deliveries, sellers with a retail store presence saw their overall share of online sales increase 10% during the pandemic.

NPD: Pandemic Purchases of Televisions Cooling

As a result of the pandemic, U.S. television sales jumped in 2020, but as the crisis subsided sales growth slowed in the first quarter of 2021, according to the NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service.

Unit sales across all models were up 20% in 2020 compared with 2019, according to the NPD.

Sales of TVs were still up in the first quarter (ended March 31), but increased at a slower pace than in 2020. U.S. TV unit sales grew in the mid-teens. Sales will see tougher comps in Q2 (ending June 30) compared with 2020 when pandemic buying took hold, according to NPD.

Fueled by stimulus checks and improving economic outlook, NPD said the mix TV models and cost increases overall saw average selling prices at record high levels.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Stephen Baker, technology industry advisor at NPD, said long-term demand for TVs likely improved as a result of the pandemic, with a much higher consumer value on larger screens, streaming quality, and the availability of familiar and consistent interfaces.

“Expect pricing to become a hurdle,” Baker wrote in a note. “While consumers expect better big screen TVs, the era of high-volume sales above $1,000 has passed.”

Baker said model mix remains key. Brands and retailers need a robust sales mix to capture a fair share of premium TV sales, while maintaining volumes necessary to create operating and cost leverage.

Best Buy Q1 Entertainment Revenue Jumps 32%

Bolstered by government stimulus programs and the strong housing environment, Best Buy May 27 reported a 32% jump in same-store domestic entertainment revenue for the first quarter (ended May 1), up from a 9.5% increase in the previous-year period.

The entertainment segment, which includes products such as DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies, video game hardware and software, books, music CDs and computer software, saw same-store sales increase $152.6 million to $650.4 million, compared with a $48 million increase to $554 million during the previous-year period. Online sales grew 7.6% ($254.2 million) to $3.6 billion, and made up 33.2% of total $10.8 billion in domestic sales.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“The year has clearly started out much stronger than we originally expected,” CFO Matt Bilunas said in a statement.

CEO Corie Barry said customer demand for technology products and services during the quarter was “extraordinarily” high.

“This demand is being driven by continued focus on the home, which encompasses many aspects of our lives including working, learning, cooking, entertaining, redecorating and remodeling,” Barry said.

Roku Eyeing Smart Home Device Market

Streaming media device pioneer Roku is reportedly considering branching out into connected homes using appliances and home entertainment products operated through the “Internet of Things” (IoT) concept. The North America market is projected to reach $180 billion by 2022. By 2025, there are projected to be 64 billion Internet-connected devices worldwide.

First reported by Protocol, Roku, which co-created the subscription streaming VOD business model with Netflix in 2008, recently hired Damir Skripic, as director of product management, home technologies. Skripic previously worked in a similar position for Amazon, and before that at Kasa Smart and Arlo Home Security Cameras, respectively.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Roku’s operating system is currently installed in branded televisions, wireless speakers and soundbars. The company operates a whole home licensing audio program for third-party OEM manufacturers.

Skripic’s hire suggests he is tasked with formalizing the strategy and execution of products and features that connect Roku with home ecosystems. While the company has made no formal announcement, the job listing filled by Skripic said the successful candidate would “be responsible for vetting new partners and developing partnerships to connect Roku with home ecosystems more deeply.”

Roku ended the most-recent fiscal period with $107.7 million in hardware revenue, which includes streaming media set-top devices and HDMI pucks. That was up 22% from revenue of $88 million in the previous-year period. Roku made the bulk of its revenue ($466.5 million) from its branded platform, which includes almost 54 million active user accounts.

CES to Return to Las Vegas for Live Event in January

The Consumer Technology Association April 28 announced that CES 2022 will return to Las Vegas next year.

CES heads back to Las Vegas Jan. 5-8, 2022, with Media Days taking place Jan. 3-4, 2022.

After an all-digital CES 2021, CTA will convene the tech industry in-person and digitally, giving a global audience access to major brands and startups, as well as leaders and industry advocates.

Some 1,000 companies have committed to showcasing their technologies in Las Vegas, and more are continuing to sign up, according to the CTA. Attendees can expect to see global brands including Amazon, AMD, AT&T, Daimler AG, Dell, Google, Hyundai, IBM, Intel, Lenovo, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics and Sony. Companies including Caterpillar, Indy Autonomous Challenge and Sierra Space are planning to make a Las Vegas debut in 2022. Eureka Park will return with startups representing countries around the world, including delegations from France, Italy, the Netherlands and South Korea.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“We’re thrilled to return to Las Vegas — home to CES for more than 40 years — and look forward to seeing many new and returning faces,” CTA president and CEO Gary Shapiro said in a statement. “Hundreds of executives have told us how much they need CES to meet new and existing customers, find partners, reach media and discover innovation.”

The CES anchor desk, which debuted at CES 2021, will travel to Las Vegas and connect the digital audience with exhibitors, conference sessions, keynotes and product announcements from the live event. New content will also be added once CES departs Las Vegas.

“Our customers are enthusiastic about returning to a live event in Las Vegas,” Karen Chupka, EVP of CES for CTA, said in a statement. “Global brands and startups have shared that plans are already well underway and are committed to sharing the magic of an in-person CES with even more people from around the world.”

The CTA will be reviewing guidelines for coronavirus safety measures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in addition to state and local guidelines. The CTA will be following applicable federal, state and local laws, adapting CES plans accordingly and sharing updates with its audiences, according to the organization.

Roku Surpassed 50 Million Active Accounts; Users Streamed 58.7 Billion Hours in 2020

Roku Jan. 6 announced preliminary estimated data for the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2020) of 51.2 million active accounts — up by approximately 14 million accounts in 2020. The company also announced an estimated 17 billion streaming hours in the fourth quarter for a total of 58.7 billion hours in 2020, an increase of 55% from the previous-year quarter and the full year.

Roku, which co-created the subscription streaming video market with Netflix in 2008, said nearly a third of U.S. households have cut traditional pay-TV. Furthermore, eMarketer predicts that by the end of 2024, fewer than half of U.S. households will subscribe to a traditional pay-TV service.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“The world is moving to streaming and we look forward to continuing to help viewers, advertisers, content publishers, and TV manufacturers succeed in the ‘streaming decade,'” CEO Anthony Wood said in a statement.

Additional milestone celebration highlights can be found on the Roku blog. In February, Roku will report final operating metrics and financial results for the fourth quarter and full year 2020.

Samsung, Roku, Sonos Among Top Brands in NPD’s Consumer Electronics Awards

The NPD Group’s technology division announced the winners of its annual Consumer Electronics Industry Performance Awards, honoring Samsung for its LCD TVs, Sonos for its soundbars and Roku for its streaming media player, among other companies.

Among the top increases in market share in North America, Samsung took the top prize for LCD TVs. Among the fastest-turning brands per item in the United States, Canada and Mexico, Sonos was the top U.S. soundbar. And among the top increases in online market share in the United States, Roku was the top streaming media player.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“After an unprecedented year, we at NPD are excited to take a moment to acknowledge the many silver linings the consumer technology market experienced in the midst of the pandemic,” Ian Hamilton, president, technology sector, The NPD Group, said in a statement. “In this fifth year of our CE Industry Performance Awards we are recognizing brands that saw success providing consumers with products that enabled them to work and learn from home, as well as stay entertained and connected in their downtime. Congratulations to all award winners — we wish everyone a healthy and successful 2021.”

2020 Retail Winners: E-Commerce, Consumer Electronics

To say online shopping boomed in 2020 would be an understatement,, especially during a pandemic. The trend toward e-commerce isn’t new. It’s been a reality of retail for awhile as stores big and small embrace transacting over the Internet as a means of dealing direct with the consumer and better competing against Amazon.

New data from eMarketer suggests that lost pre-pandemic spending on restaurants, bars, salons, travel, live events, movie theaters, etc., contributed to a $100 billion uptick in e-commerce spending, notably on consumer electronics.

In January, eMarketer forecast total e-commerce sales would reach $675 billion in 2020. Now, that estimate is closer to $795 billion.

Consumer electronics were particularly well suited to serve the needs of a population suddenly stuck at home managing unexpected work, school and leisure time. Online CE sales are tracking toward $179.3 billion, up from pre-pandemic estimate of $150.1 billion.

“That’s $29.3 billion in unanticipated online spending on devices to help us work, learn, [entertain] and play from home,” analyst Ethan Cramer-Flood wrote in a Dec. 29 note.

Indeed, tech spending on hardware and services during the 2020 holiday season (October-December) is projected to reach $135 billion in revenue in the United States — a 10% increase from a year ago, according to the Consumer Technology Association.

Projected top-selling CE devices over the holidays include smartphones, laptops, next-generation video game consoles, TVs and wearables.

“The 2020 holiday season will bring economic, safety and political unknowns — but the consumer desire to give and receive technology gifts is certain,” said Lesley Rohrbaugh, director of market research at CTA. “With consumers forgoing budgets for travel and experiences this year, more dollars will go towards technology gifts that support connection, productivity, health and home entertainment, as technology has been a critical asset to so many during the ongoing pandemic.”

Perhaps no CE retailer has better adapted to the pandemic than Best Buy, which saw a near 174% increase in e-commerce revenue and entertainment in the most-recent fiscal quarter. The nation’s largest CE retailer was quick to offer online purchases with curbside pick-up during the early days of the pandemic.

The chain’s entertainment segment, which includes products such as DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies, video game hardware and software, books, music CDs and computer software, saw same-store sales increase 17.5% compared with a 20.8% decline during the previous-year period. The division generated 5% of domestic revenue, or $542.5 million, compared with $448.2 million last year.

Domestic online revenue of $3.82 billion increased 173.7% on a comparable basis, and as a percentage of total domestic revenue, online revenue increased to approximately 35.2% versus 15.6% in 2019.

CEO Corie Barry said the pandemic has underscored Best Buy’s purpose to “enrich lives through technology,” and the capabilities the chain is “flexing and strengthening” to benefit sales going forward.