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.

 

Parks: Streaming Media Device Use Tops Smart TV

More homes with high-speed Internet service own a smart TV than a streaming media device, yet usage of Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV is higher, according to new data from Parks Associates.

The research firm found that nearly 40% of broadband-enabled homes own a streaming media device, up from about 6% in 2010.

More than 70% of streaming media player (SMP) owners use their devices at least once per week, compared to 59% of smart TV owners. About 44% of SMP owners use their device daily as compared to 37% of smart TV owners. Almost 50% of smart TV owners also own a streaming media player.

Separately, flat-panel purchases including 4K/Ultra HD technology rose from 14% to 30% among U.S. broadband households.

“Smart TVs earned the highest [score] among consumers out of all the CE products tested, but streaming media players still have higher usage rates, indicating these devices have firmly established their role in their ability to connect users with content quickly and easily,” analyst Kristen Hanich said in a statement.

Amazon’s share of streaming media players owned in U.S. broadband households has increased by 4% since last year, taking some of Google’s share of the installed base. Roku’s share has held steady at 37% for the past year.

“Roku leads in multiple usability categories, while the Apple TV leads in terms of gaming and the ability to purchase content,” said Hanich. “Amazon’s Fire TV has moved up to second place in the ease-of-setup category and is close to the Apple TV’s score in several more, including ease of finding something to watch and ease of purchasing content, which could account in part for its growing market share.”

 

 

LG Adds Hulu With Live TV to Its Smart TVs

LG Electronics USA April 10 announced that its smart TVs now include Hulu with Live TV.

The updated user interface is available on all 2018 and 2017 LG Smart TVs with webOS, as well as select 2016 models.

“As interest in streaming live events continues to rise, we are offering LG smart TV owners a seamless solution that enables them to experience today’s pivotal cultural moments as they are happening from the comfort of their own home,” said Matthew Durgin, director of smart TV content partnerships at LG Electronics USA, in a statement.

Hulu with Live TV offers viewers access to live and on-demand programming from more than 50 top channels, in addition to the service’s on-demand streaming library with thousands of movies and shows. Hulu’s live offering gives viewers access to personal-ized sports experiences, as well as the opportunity to record live TV through the Cloud DVR option. Current LG TV customers with Hulu subscriptions may enjoy Hulu with Live TV by updating their subscription plan.

The 2018 LG Smart TVs with webOS are now available with the updated UI and access to Hulu with Live TV at retailers nationwide.

Vizio Unveils 4K HDR Smart TV Collections

Vizio April 10 unveiled its new 2018 P-Series 4K HDR Smart TV collection and value-priced D-Series and E-Series 4K HDR Smart TV collections.

The latest P-Series collection features a bezel-less industrial design, a blend of 4K HDR picture quality enhancements and smart TV and smart home capabilities. The series also includes Dolby Vision HDR and up to 1,000 nits of peak brightness and more than 1 billion colors thanks to Ultra Color Spectrum, according to Vizio. Also, the 2018 SmartCast OS offers streaming options and smart home controls with the integration of voice-control support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Offered in 55-, 65- and 75-inchs sizes, the 2018 P-Series 4K HDR Smart TVs are now available on Vizio.com and are coming soon to retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, Costco and Sam’s Club, according to Vizio. The TVs retail at $899.99 for the 55-inch set, $1,299.99 for the 65-inch and $2,499.99 for the 75-inch.

Active Full Array Pro backlight combines a full array backlight with up to 120 local dimming zones, according to Vizio. UltraBright 1000 features up to 1,000 nits of peak brightness, and Clear Action 720 features a 240Hz effective refresh rate achieved with backlight scanning.

“Picture quality technologies like Ultra Color Spectrum, Dolby Vision HDR and UltraBright 1000 enable the P-Series to take 4K HDR performance to the next level,” said Vizio chief technology officer Bill Baxter in a statement. “Incredibly, realistic on-screen imagery is complemented by cutting-edge smart TV features to round out the collection’s entertainment experience. Vizio SmartCast OS not only expands discovery and streaming options so consumers can watch content they love from their favorite apps, but also serves as an ideal centerpiece to any smart home with easy-to-use voice-control support through Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.”

Through the 2018 SmartCast OS, apps such as Netflix, Prime Video, Vudu, iHeartRadio, Crackle and Xumo can be instantly accessed on the TV screen using the included remote, according to Vizio. Users can also download the free SmartCast Mobile app to turn their smartphone into a touchscreen remote. The SmartCast OS also features Google Chromecast built-in and offers voice-control support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. By utilizing speaking commands, users can turn their TVs on and off, change channels or adjust volume — and for Google Assistant users, stream content to the TV, according to Vizio.

Offered in sizes 43 inches and above, both the D-Series and E-Series collections also feature the 2018 SmartCast OS experience with Google Chromecast built-in. They support HDR10 and HLG high dynamic range formats and full array LED backlighting. The E-Series collection also supports Dolby Vision HDR content. Prices for the D-Series range from $349.99 (43-inch) to $999.99 (70-inch). Prices for the E-Series range from $349.99 (43-inch) to $1,549.99 (75-inch).

The 2018 D- and E-Series 4K HDR Smart TVs are now available on VIZIO.com and coming soon to retailers such as Best Buy, Sam’s Club, Target and Walmart.

“VIZIO believes all consumers — including those on a budget — should be able to enjoy the growing library of 4K and HDR movies and shows available to them,” said Baxter in a statement. “Packed with picture quality benefits that are oftentimes reserved for pricey, high-end TVs, our all-new 2018 D-Series and E-Series 4K HDR models were engineered to bring the benefits of 4K HDR to the masses. The entertainment experience is rounded out by our easy-to-use, on-screen smart TV experience that grants access to thousands of popular streaming apps.”

Sanyo Adopting Roku TV Technology

Roku April 4 announced that the Sanyo consumer electronics brand has joined its licensing program. Funai Corp., which is the exclusive licensee for Sanyo televisions and home video products in North America, expects to ship the first Sanyo Roku TVs in Canada this quarter.

“The Roku operating system makes our smart TVs an attractive option for consumers, Peter Swinkels, GM, product planning at Funai Electric, said in a statement.

Launched four years ago, the Roku TV licensing program offers OEM partners a cost-effective way to build smart TVs. The Roku operating system provides consumers with access to a regularly updated library of content, in addition to automatic tech updates.

“We’re thrilled to expand the Roku TV program with our 10th brand – Sanyo – through our work with Funai,” said Chas Smith, GM of Roku TV & Players.

Other CE brands on the Roku TV program include: TCL, Best Buy house brand, Insignia; Sharp, Hisense, Hitachi, RCA, Philips and Element.