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.

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“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.

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“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.

NPD: Consumer Tech Revenue Up 37% Through 6 Weeks of Q4

Heading into the Black Friday retail holiday weekend and consumer technology sales are already booming, according to new data from The NPD Group. The week ended Nov. 20 was the second-highest revenue sales week of the pandemic period — bested only by Amazon Prime Week (week ended Oct. 17). As expected, TV sales led the industry for the second straight week.

NPD said notebook PCs sales increased 32% through Nov. 20, followed by tablets (up 52%); routers (+80%); sound bars and mounts (+50%); and cell phone accessories (cases, protectors and mobile power), up 32%.

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The research group contends year-over-year growth of 2.5% to 3.4% during the traditional holiday period of November and December, across general merchandise categories.

The group also claims year-over-year growth of 4.3% to 5.1% during the new holiday period, beginning in mid-October with early promotions, running through mid-January with gift card redemption, and spanning a broader view of NPD’s discretionary categories.

The NPD Group says consumers plan to spend an average of $691 during the 2020 holiday shopping season, which is less than last year’s anticipated holiday spending, but on par with 2018’s.

The hottest industries of 2020 — tech and home — will continue their momentum through the holidays with significant growth, but holiday staples will see stability compared to last year. Half of consumers plan to buy clothing/footwear/accessories as gifts this year.

Half of consumers plan to purchase intangible items/experiences as gifts for the upcoming holiday season — food subscriptions and streaming service subscriptions lead the list, and gift cards will be particularly popular.

Another 41% of consumers cited Black Friday/Thanksgiving Weekend/Cyber Monday as the period when they thought they would get the best deals of the season. About 80% of consumers plan to shop online, but shoppers still plan to make 42% of holiday purchases in a store.

For the first time, free shipping surpassed special sale price as the number one factor influencing where consumers decide to shop this holiday — cited by 41% of holiday shoppers. About 42% of holiday shoppers will be shipping most gifts because they won’t be seeing family and friends as a result of COVID-19 precautions.

Another 57% of shoppers rate the state of the economy poorly (up from 37% last year), and 30% say they will spend less because of the state of the economy (up from 23% in 2019), but consumer feelings about their personal financial situation has not changed since 2019.

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic will prompt 40% of consumers to spend more on gifts to bring joy during challenging times; 31% of consumers say they will do more self-gifting as pandemic-related retail therapy.

Dolby: 72% Uptick in U.S. Consumer Home Entertainment Spending in 2020

U.S. consumers have increased their purchase and rental of home entertainment by 72% in 2020, according to a new global survey by Dolby Laboratories that illustrates a significant shift in consumer entertainment behavior.

Led by Gen Z and millennials, consumers are spending more than ever on entertainment, which is fueled by the desire for human connection, especially during the ongoing pandemic, according to Dolby. People are also willing to spend more on premium subscriptions in order to receive a better quality experience.

Dolby found spending on content has increased in the last six months, with millennials in the U.S. increasing spending by an average of 38%. Most global consumers have increased how much they spent on content since the start of the year, including 55% in France, 72% in the U.S., 94% in China, and 97% in India.

The survey, in partnership with Wakefield Research, polled 5,000 respondents from China, France, India, and the U.S. — examining consumption behavior, device buying decisions, and new habits being formed in the wake of this unprecedented year. With more time than ever before to watch and engage with entertainment, consumers are accelerating their interest in immersive content and new experiences.

With this increase in spending, consumers are willing to pay more for a premium subscription to receive enhanced audiovisual experiences, with 77% of total respondents indicating they would pay more for better picture or sound quality because it impacts how they connect with content. In fact, 64% of respondents stated they had upgraded at least one streaming service to a premium subscription within the past six months.

“Despite all the challenges of this past year, this study has illustrated the power of entertainment in bringing us together with those that are most important to us,” John Couling, SVP Commercial Partnerships at Dolby Laboratories, said in a statement.

Other survey findings include the fact that 86% of global respondents connected with family and friends virtually with home entertainment together over the last six months. This included activities like talking on the phone while watching the same content (45% of global respondents), texting while watching the same content (44%), video chatting while watching the same content (43%), as well as engaging in live chats while watching streaming videos (41%).

For a significant majority of people, within the past six months was the first time they have ever participated in virtual shared experiences while enjoying entertainment — with 87% of respondents noting this was their first time.

While plans to upgrade traditional home entertainment devices remain strong, consumers are also planning to upgrade their mobile viewing experience, which is fueled by a majority of consumers who used their smartphone, tablet, or PC as their primary device for consuming entertainment over the past few months.

About 82% of respondents plan to purchase a new device to upgrade their entertainment viewing experience in the next six months. Another 64% plan to purchase a device specifically to upgrade their living room entertainment experience (including a new TV, soundbar, home theater speakers, receiver, or streaming device).

Millennials are the most likely to make a living room upgrade at 73%, compared with 68% of Gen Xers, 58% of Gen Zers, and 50% of Boomers.
More than 4 in 5 (81%) of those who have paid to upgrade their streaming services to premium also plan to improve their living room entertainment experience.

While U.S. households have more devices than ever, the television still plays a huge role — particularly with older generations. This is true in every market, but particularly in the U.S., where 65% of Boomers say that television is their primary entertainment device; 52% of French Boomers say the same.

Meanwhile, 60% of total respondents used their smartphone, tablet, or PC as their primary device for entertainment over the past six months and 44% of total respondents indicated that they plan to upgrade their mobile device in the next six months to improve their viewing experience.

“Ultimately, we expect the desire for more human connection to continue in the future and immersive experiences can help fulfill this demand,” added John Couling, SVP  of commercial partnerships at Dolby Laboratories. “Just as entertainment drives cultural conversation, that conversation drives connection across the globe, and we are seeing connections grow stronger every day through elevated entertainment experiences.”

Roku Says Apple’s Airplay 2 Streaming Service Now on Select 4K Devices

In a major development, Roku on Nov. 11 announced that with the release of the new operating system Roku OS 9.4, Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support is now available on select 4K Roku devices.

These include the Roku Ultra, Roku Streambar, Roku Smart Soundbar, Roku Streaming Stick+, and Roku Premiere. Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit are expected to roll out to supported 4K Roku TV models with Roku OS 9.4 in the coming days.

AirPlay is a service that Apple devices can use to stream audio and video between electronic devices. It operates similar to connecting to a third-party app except that is located on your network instead of on the Internet.

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With AirPlay 2, Roku users can stream, control and share their content directly from their iPhone, iPad or Mac to their supported Roku device and on the television screen. HomeKit allows users to control their Roku device with their voice using the Home app and Siri on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch or HomePod.

“With Roku OS 9.4 now available on streaming players, we are adding all-new ways to navigate and control content-rich experiences on Roku devices … regardless of what other technology products [i.e. Apple] they prefer in their homes,” Ilya Asnis, SVP of Roku OS, said in a statement.

UHD Alliance Announces Amazon Prime, Hisense Support for Filmmaker Mode

The UHD Alliance on Sept. 30 announced that Amazon Prime will begin supporting Filmmaker Mode next year and that Hisense has joined consumer electronics companies Panasonic, Vizio, Samsung, LG, Kaleidescape and Philips in supporting the feature.

The announcements came during an online presentation with DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Filmmaker Mode, introduced by the UHD Alliance in August 2019, is designed to reproduce the content in the way the creator intended. It allows viewers to enjoy a more cinematic experience on their UHD TVs when watching movies by disabling all post-processing (e.g. motion smoothing, etc.) so the movie or television show is displayed as it was intended by the filmmaker, preserving the correct aspect ratios, colors and frame rates, according to the Alliance.

“Prime Video will be launching this feature on select players next year,” said UHD Alliance chairman Mike Zink. “It’s something that we’ve been working very hard on, and I think we are very, very excited for this to come to life.”

UHD Alliance president Mike fiddler noted that CE companies supporting Filmmaker Mode represent a big chunk of TV unit shipments both domestically and globally.

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Zink interviewed colorist Jill Bogdanowicz and Stephen Lighthill, president, the American Society of Cinematographers, about the importance of maintaining the intention of creators in content viewed in the home.

“Anyone that does not look at the way the image is going into the home is foolish,” noted Lighthill, adding “producers want to make sure it’s going to look the same in Jill’s suite as it does at home.”

CE company executives also joined the discussion to describe and express their support for Filmmaker Mode.

LG Electronics’ Tim Alessi said the company was putting Filmmaker Mode in every new UHD model produced in 2020.

“We kinda went all in on Filmmaker Mode,” he said, noting, “what really sets this whole effort apart is we got the entire industry to rally around one name and one set of features.”

LG is mounting an in-store display at Best Buy describing the advantages of the feature.

Samsung’s Bill Mandel said the manufacturer put the Mode in all its 2020 UHD TVs, and about a month ago launched new projectors with the feature. Samsung is running an in-store video loop about it on its TVs, he noted.

Amazon Bows Cloud-Based Gaming Platform, New Fire TV Stick, Spherical Echo Speakers

Amazon on Sept. 24 unveiled a series of new hardware devices that include updates on existing products such as the Fire TV Stick Lite and spherical Echo voice-activated speakers. The e-commerce behemoth also unveiled the Luna cloud-based gaming system, an in-home drone Ring security system, and Halo fitness wristband, among other products.

The $5.99 monthly Luna platform is compatible with Amazon’s Twitch streaming video/gaming service, and will be available on Fire TV, Mac, Windows PCs, iOS and soon Android operating systems. The platform is intended to compete with similar gaming systems operated by Google (Stadia) and Microsoft’s Xbox Live. Amazon is also going to offer a dedicated game controller for $49.99. Games can be played with a keyboard and mouse or Bluetooth-connected controller.

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The rebooted Echo Show 10 speaker ($249.99), will come with a built-in shutter cover for privacy, with VOD support for Netflix, Zoom and Amazon Chime video calls.

The $29.99 Fire TV Stick Lite can only be controlled by voice-activation, in addition to rewinding, exiting and playing video options on the controller.

Online CES Moves to Jan. 11-14

The 2021 CES event, which is going online and was scheduled to start Jan. 6, is moving back to Jan. 11-14, organizers announced.

The new schedule is:

  • Jan. 11: Exclusive media-only access
  • Jan. 12: Exhibitor showcase and conference programming
  • Jan. 13: Exhibitor showcase and conference programming
  • Jan. 14: Conference programming

 

Owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association, CES 2021 will be an all-digital experience connecting exhibitors, customers, thought leaders and media from around the world. CES 2021 will allow participants to hear from technology innovators, see cutting-edge technologies and the latest product launches, and engage with global brands and startups from around the world, according to organizers.

For more than 50 years, CES has spotlighted technology. Visit CES.tech for all CES 2021 updates.

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NPD Expects 18% Increase in Winter Holiday CE Sales

In a year where consumer electronics and home technology have played a key role for house-bound families due to the coronavirus pandemic, new data from The NPD Group suggests fourth-quarter CE sales will increase 18% compared with the same period in 2019.

The second quarter of 2020 saw healthy gains in categories associated with learning and working from home, as consumers across the U.S. outfitted their home offices with the equipment needed to maintain productivity. Gains in home entertainment categories were notable as well, as consumers looked for ways to fill time while at home for an extended period. High growth categories included: notebook computers (+45%), tablets (37%), monitors (+84%), printers (+59%), and keyboards and mice (62%).

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“Sales of items we need to get through the school or workday took priority in the first half of this year, but as we head into Q4 and the holidays we expect many of these ‘needs’ will have been satisfied and consumers will begin to purchase items they consider to be ‘wants’ or gifts for the holiday season, such as TVs and noise-canceling headphones,” Ben Arnold, executive director, industry analyst, for The NPD Group, said in a statement.

Arnold said that while the typical Q4 shopping list won’t differ much from previous years, how consumers buy will, due to ongoing concerns regarding social distancing. According to NPD Checkout data, in Q2 e-commerce represented 69% of consumer technology sales, up from 48% during the same time last year, and that number is expected to remain above 60% moving forward. Additionally, buying online and picking up in-store accounted for about 25% of online tech sales in Q2, as consumers shifted to new ways of purchasing accelerated by COVID-19.

“Black Friday lines won’t disappear, but we expect lines of consumers waiting for store openings will be replaced by long queues of cars eagerly waiting for [online] purchases to be placed in their vehicle,” said Stephen Baker, VP, industry advisor for The NPD Group. “As we head into Q4 and into 2021, we’re forecasting technology sales will remain strong as the pandemic has renewed recognition of the critical value of technology in the modern lifestyle, sped-up product upgrade cycles and created larger installed bases that will benefit the industry moving forward.”