Apple Leads in Living Room Streaming, But Google Is Catching Up

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A look at streaming media device usage from 2014 shows that the market has reshuffled itself once again. Google jumped to the No. 2 position in terms of new units shipped in 2014 on the strength of interest in its Chromecast device, while Amazon has emerged as a force to be reckoned with.

A Frost & Sullivan survey, compiled by analyst Avni Rambhia, details the market drivers, restraints to market growth, product and pricing trends, competitive landscape, market forecasts, and trend analysis broken out by region of the world for the next 5 years. Numbers are being updated biannually to keep pace with changing market statistics. Overall, we found the market nearly doubled in 2014 to 31 million units, propelled in large part by some 10 million Chromecast shipments. We expect the market will grow a further 25%, surpassing 40 million by 2020.

Our definition of streaming media devices covers both box and stick form factors and does not include game consoles, which are covered separately. Apple still led the market with a 40.6% market share, but Google accounted for more than a third of shipments and leapfrogged over Roku to take second place in the market. An aging product design, limited content selection, and intensifying competition are challenging Apple TV’s growth.

A recent price cut to the Apple TV, coupled with an expected product update and a far more aggressive content lineup initiative, could reverse the product’s loss of momentum. For now, however, this is one of the rare markets in which Apple’s user experience is not quite on par with more innovative competitors’ offerings. Roku and Amazon have invested heavily in an easy, intuitive user experience. Roku in particular al so boasts a massive channel lineup and a hassle-free search experience. Google has a reported 17 million lifetime shipments under its belt, but our research shows that less than half those devices are in active use today— although the level of engagement with in-use Chromecasts is growing.

As a result of this differentiation, we are seeing growing divergence between market share measured by annual units shipped and market share as measured by share of total deployed units in use for M&E applications. With the latter metric, Roku clearly stands out, despite its narrow geographical footprint.

One of the strongest drivers of streaming media device sales is the skyrocketing consumption of OTT content. That said, this alone is not enough to generate demand for streaming media devices. In fact, the market is fairly treacherous and continues to see a steady stream of exits—Sony, for example, officially bowed out of the market, and TiVo retail numbers continue to dwindle. The challenges vendors face in this market also plague content owners who seek to capture increasingly elusive viewer attention.

In addition to streaming media devices, the analysis also breaks out market share and sales numbers for smart TVs, based on region of the world, with projections for the next few years. Copies of the report are available to any customer who has a subscription to Frost’s Digital Media research service. While many research analysts at other firms won’t talk to non-customers, I have and always will talk anyone who is interested in getting more details on any aspect of our reports. 

This article appears in the September 2015 issue of Streaming Media magazine as “Streaming Devices: Apple Still Leads, But Google Is Catching Up.”

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