Roku Devices Link With Amazon Alexa

Roku streaming player and Roku TV owners in the United States can now control their Roku devices using Amazon’s Alexa, Roku announced.

“Consumers often have multiple voice ecosystems in their homes. By allowing our customers to choose Alexa, in addition to Roku voice search and controls, and other popular voice assistants; we are strengthening the value Roku offers as a neutral platform in home entertainment,” said Ilya Asnis, SVP of Roku OS at Roku, in a statement. “Roku customers can get to the entertainment they love faster so they can enjoy more of it.”

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Roku users with Alexa-enabled devices — including Amazon Echo, Echo Show, Echo Dot, Echo Spot and Echo Plus — can pause a show, launch a streaming channel and search for entertainment with such voice commands as, “Alexa, find comedies on Roku,” “Alexa, pause Roku” or “Alexa, open Hulu on Roku,” according to the Roku press release. Additionally, Roku TV users can turn on the TV, change the volume, mute the TV, switch inputs and change channels if there is an OTA antenna connected by saying, “Alexa, turn on Roku” or “Alexa, turn up the volume on Roku.”

Customers can control Roku devices running Roku OS 8.1 or greater using their Alexa-enabled devices. To access the feature, customers open the Alexa app, go to settings and select “TV & Video,” enable the Roku skill, and link their account.

The Roku OS offers access to 500,000-plus movies and TV episodes via thousands of free or paid channels, according to the release.

IHS: Amazon Device Owners Consume More Prime Video

The adage, “When in Rome …,” appears to apply to owners of Amazon media devices such as Kindle, Echo and Fire TV more than among other streaming device ecosystems.

New data from IHS Markit found that more than two-thirds of Fire TV owners subscribed to Prime Video in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2018 — a higher penetration than for any other connected streaming device, including Roku, Apple TV and Google Chromecast.

This noteworthy as brand loyalty is especially important in video, because entry prices for streaming devices are relatively low, and all of them offer somewhat uniform content offerings, so consumers have a wide range of choices.

While Apple changed the music landscape by tying its transactional music service to hardware more than a decade ago, it is now hard to lock consumers into one content ecosystem.

Consumers expect flexibility and the ability to access their content across devices, so building a fluid ecosystem ensures higher brand loyalty and trust, resulting in increased usage of devices and services and the likelihood of future purchases.

Indeed, Fire TV owners are also more likely to select Prime Video as the “best video service for content on the go” and “flexibility of viewing.” More than 25% of Prime Video subscribers believe Amazon provides the largest content catalog.

They are also twice as likely to turn to Prime Video first when looking for video content to watch.

The findings are part of IHS’ “Connected Devices and Media Consumption” survey conducted in April.

The data would appear to highlight the importance of a proprietary device and user interface that allows consumers to gain access to a wide range of content services, while enabling the device manufacturer to control the user experience.

The value-added benefits of offering streaming devices and video services, in terms of perception and usage along with the ability to maintain their direct-to-consumer relationships and interfaces, has driven other operators and device manufacturers to follow Amazon’s lead, according to IHS.

Fire TV was one of the top sellers in Amazon’s Prime Day in July, and there are rumors of an upcoming user experience update, which is likely to result in improved consumer engagement with Prime Video.

Amazon Echo Speakers Outselling Fire TV Devices

Wireless home audio is big business — driven in part by voice recognition software that enables speakers to do more than deliver sound.

New data from Futuresource Consulting found that Amazon’s Echo speaker sold more units worldwide in 2017 than Amazon Fire tablets and Fire TV media devices.

With almost 20 million units sold globally last year, Echo’s installed base stood at 28 million, marginally ahead of Fire tablets at 27 million, with Fire TV also close behind, at 26 million.

Indeed, Echo commanded 90% market share at the end of 2016, a percentage that dropped to 72% in 2017 following the arrival of competing wireless speakers from Google Home, Harman Kardon, JBL and Sony, among others.

The closeness of Amazon device installed bases highlights that, despite the hype surrounding Echo, Amazon isn’t focusing all its device efforts on its smart speakers.

London-based Futuresource says the Alexa voice assistant software is now also standard on its Fire TVs and tablets and last week’s announcement of the Fire TV Cube is the latest development in the Seattle-based firm’s multi-device strategy to position itself as the key “go-to” facilitator in the smart home.

Meanwhile, data shows that while Amazon is the category leader globally, Echo sales are still heavily skewed toward the United States — with only 13% of its 2017 sales international. As a result, Fire tablets outsold Echo speakers internationally in 2017 by a ratio of over 4 to 1. Fire TV sales are partly facilitated by Amazon Prime (over 40% of global Prime members are outside of the U.S.).

Futuresource said Amazon’s “boldness and risk-taking” in both consumer technology and the media space is further emphasized by its recent Premier League rights deal in the U.K., where there are now over 7 million Prime members.

“This was an expected step, but unusual for Amazon given it is a U.K.-only deal,” said the research firm in a release. “Its wider in-home strategy continues to be more developed in the U.S., recently focusing on home security through a dedicated ‘home services’ division.”

Regardless, Futuresource said Amazon’s drive to create an installed base of voice-activated devices in the home will not only fuel e-commerce sales and Prime subscriptions, but will also serve to ramp up use of third-party smart home applications and potentially position Alexa at the core of the home entertainment hub.

Amazon Alexa is now able to facilitate the control of more than 4,000 smart home devices from 1,200 unique brands, including Whirlpool, GE Appliances, LG, Samsung and smart oven manufacturer June Life.

Amazon’s pace of innovation continues to impress, but it will continue to encounter challenges. Citing a consumer survey, Futuresource 38% of non-adopters of smart speakers “can’t see a use for smart home devices”, with a third citing privacy concerns.

“Amazon may well need to prioritize such consumer concerns if it is to ultimately achieve success in the smart home in the wider international markets,” said Futuresource.