Parks: Streaming Media Player Ownership Flattening With Roku and Amazon Leading Space

More than a third (39%) of U.S. broadband households own a streaming media player, but that’s a mere 1% increase from 2018, according to new research from Parks Associates.

Ownership has flattened, the firm noted, although purchase intentions are higher for 2019 compared to previous years.

The report, 360 Deep Dive: Adoption and Use of Connected Video Devices, found connected video device manufacturers may need to shift focus from hardware sales to service and advertising revenue, as ownership reaches saturation, according to Parks.

“Streaming media has reshaped how U.S. consumers interact with entertainment content and services, so as the market matures, sales increasingly come at another vendor’s expense,” said Parks senior analyst Kristen Hanich in a statement. “Video-quality features are the most important factors when consumers buy a connected video device, although Roku and Amazon have certainly benefited among streaming media players by having broad product portfolios that include lower price points.”

Among streaming media players, Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV are the clear market leaders with almost 70% of the installed base of streaming media players in the United States, according to the firm. Consumer-reported data reveals that between Q1 2017 and Q1 2019, Roku’s share of the U.S. streaming media player installed base grew from 37% to 39%, while Amazon’s share of the installed base increased from 24% to 30%.

The report looks at the state of the connected video device space, including smart TV platforms, streaming media devices, smart set-top boxes and gaming consoles, examining the changing roles of these devices and how consumers are engaging with new functionality, such as voice control and live TV integration.

“As the addressable market shrinks, rivalry increases,” said Parks senior analyst Craig Leslie in a statement. “The combined installed base for Roku and Amazon is three times larger than the nearest competitor. The adoption of Roku and Fire TV streaming media players continues to grow at the expense of Chromecast and Apple TV.”

Amazon, Google Bowing Apps on Competing Streaming Media Devices

In a first, Amazon and Google April 18 announced the two companies will launch the YouTube app on Amazon Fire TV devices and Fire TV-enabled smart TVs, as well as the Prime Video app to Chromecast and separately-enabled devices.

Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku dominate the streaming media device market.

Google Chromecast

Prime Video will also be available across Android TV device partners, and the YouTube TV and YouTube Kids apps will also come to Fire TV later this year. Google owns Android TV.

The YouTube app will be the easiest way for users to watch YouTube content on Fire TV. Users will be able to sign in to their existing YouTube account, access their full library of content, and play videos in 4K HDR on supported devices. In addition, standalone YouTube TV and YouTube Kids apps will also launch later this year on Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition smart TVs where available.

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Amazon Fire TV Stick

“Bringing our flagship YouTube experience to Amazon Fire TV gives our users even more ways to watch the videos and creators they love,” Heather Rivera, global head of product partnerships at YouTube, said in a statement.

Chromecast, along with Android TV users, will have access to the Prime Video catalog, including the latest seasons of Amazon Originals “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Hanna,” “Homecoming,” “Bosch,” “Catastrophe” and “The Grand Tour,” along with Amazon Original movies such as Donald Glover’s Guava Island, and Academy Award-nominated films The Big Sick and Cold War. 

With Prime Video users can also rent or purchase titles or choose from more than 150 Prime Video Channels, including Showtime, HBO, CBS All-Access, Cinemax and Lionsgate-owned Starz.

“Whether watching the latest season of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,’ catching teams go head-to-head on Thursday Night Football or renting a new-release movie, customers will have even more ways to stream what they want, whenever they want, no matter where they are,” said Andrew Bennett, head of worldwide business development for Prime Video.

Amazon’s IMDb.com Bows Original Comedy Series

Amazon-owned movie/TV show database IMDb.com Jan. 16 announced the premiere of “UnMade” (www.imdb.com/unmade), a new original series that follows comedians as they share the plots, inspirations and stories for projects that are not listed on IMDb, because they were never produced … until now.

In each episode – also available on just-launched ad-supported VOD service IMDb Freedive – celebrity comedians remember projects they wrote before they were famous – and, spoiler alert – Hollywood missed out on some winners. These ambitious yet sometimes misguided scripts are given a second chance and brought to life via a team of actors and a professional production crew.

The first three episodes feature Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers), Kristen Schaal (“Last Man on Earth”) and Rainn Wilson (“The Office”) sharing ideas for “unmade” projects. Future guests include Nick Cannon, Bobby Moynihan, Tig Notaro, Paul Rust, Reggie Watts and “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Schaal’s episode takes viewers behind the scenes of her film Avant Garde, which she developed during a college screenwriting class.

The series is produced for IMDb by production company Big Breakfast in Los Angeles.

Viewers can catch new weekly episodes on IMDb’s iOS and Android apps, and the recently launched IMDb Freedive channel, available on IMDb desktop and Fire TV. Fans will also receive regular updates and show content on the IMDb Facebook, YouTube and Twitter channels.

“UnMade provides fans with a comedic new perspective on how the industry works, and why certain projects get made… or don’t,” Steve Bernstein, GM of IMDb Video, said in a statement. “Following the success of IMDb original series like ‘The IMDb Show,’ ‘So Far,’ ‘No Small Parts,’ and ‘Casting Calls,’ we are thrilled to team up with Big Breakfast to offer even more original videos for our customers to dive deeper into the stories that shape the industry.”

 

Amazon Q3 ‘Stores’ Revenue Up 10%

Amazon Oct. 25 reported third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) online store sales of $29 billion, up 10% from sales of $26.3 billion during the previous-year period. Physical store (two locations) sales topped $4.2 million from $1.3 million.

The ecommerce behemoth says online stores revenue includes product sales, physical and digital media, such as books, music, videos, games, and software. This includes digital products sold on a transactional basis such as Amazon Instant Video.

Separately, Amazon said the second season of “NFL Thursday Night Football” on Prime Video reaching more than 8 million combined viewers worldwide through the first four games on Prime Video and Twitch.

Amazon this season added a new alternative audio feed featuring sports journalists Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer, the first-ever all-female sportscasting team to call NFL games. In addition, Amazon is bringing interactivity to TNF with several innovations, including “X-Ray for TNF” on FireTV, enabling viewers to access live stats, player information, and in-app shopping; as well as the “TNF on Twitch,” affording global users interactive access to watch, comment, and predict game outcomes.

In addition, Prime Video debuted original series “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” “The Romanoffs,” and season 3 of “The Man in the High Castle.” Upcoming original series include “Homecoming,” a psychological thriller starring Julia Roberts, and produced and directed by Sam Esmail; as well as season 2 of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” recent winner of eight Emmy awards including Outstanding Comedy Series.

 

 

Amazon Eyeing Branded TVs

Move over, Roku. Amazon reportedly is looking to enter the smart TV market.

The e-commerce behemoth’s connected TVs would be similar to Roku’s line of Chinese-made televisions featuring a proprietary operating system, voice-activated remote and embedded apps for over-the-top video.

While nothing official has been announced, the Amazon TV is being tested by DTG, a British product testing services used by manufacturers to demonstrate conformance to a variety of U.K. broadcast standards, according to a report by The Telegraph.

The media outlet – citing multiple sources – said Amazon is pursuing branded TVs after attempts to bring the BBC and major U.K. pay-TV operators into the Amazon Channels ecosystem failed.

Amazon, of course, already markets myriad branded streaming media devices, including Fire TV, Fire TV Cube, Fire TV Stick and Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD, among others.

Roku launched its first branded TVs in 2014 with line of units manufactured by Chinese vendors such as TCL, Insignia, Hisense and Element, in addition to mainstream Japanese manufacturers such as Sharp, Hitachi, Philips, Sanyo and RCA.

The TVs – like the streaming media devices – offer myriad third-party apps such as Netflix, CBS All Access, HBO Now, PBS Kids, ESPN, Hulu, ABC TV, and Amazon Prime Video, in addition to an ad-supported Roku Channel, and easy access to over-the-air digital TV signals, cable, satellite and telecom connections.

 

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.

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.”