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Streaming Media West 19 Keynote: Amazon Launches Fire TV Blaster

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Amazon launched its latest device for the living room today, the Fire TV Blaster, and Sandeep Gupta, the company's vice president of Fire TV devices and experiences, gave Streaming Media West 2019 attendees an inside look at the strategy behind it during the conference’s opening day keynote.

Fire TV Blaster is intended to simplify TV viewing by bringing voice controls to more devices. Customers who already use an Echo device and a Fire TV for TV voice control can add a Fire TV Blaster to the mix to extend voice control to their soundbar, cable box, and A/V receiver. The Blaster sells for $34.99 and is available for pre-order in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Germany. It will ship December 11.

"Anybody with a Fire TV product can have hands-free voice control," Gupta said. "There’s something magical about walking into a room and saying Play Stranger Things,' and it powers up all your devices and picks up where you left off." Forget the array of remotes on the coffee table, he added.

Voice has the ability to cross over domains, Gupta said. Devices with integrated cable box control can change video input when needed, for example, making accessing content easier for viewers. When companies create an interface that transcends the device, he noted, they make TV viewing more powerful.

In growing its Fire TV line, Amazon has listened to its customers and taken notes from other countries. When the Fire TV was first introduced over a year ago, customers liked the simple setup experience, Gupta said, so the company decided to build on that. It’s why the Fire TV Blaster brings voice control to more devices.

"Each country has its own way of watching TV," Gupta sad, and having the right partners in each region is crucial. In India, Amazon learned that being able to work with cable boxes was important, and in the U.K. and Germany it learned that over-the-air channels were still a big part of how people watched TV. Amazon integrated those lessons into its products and brought the improvements back to the U.S.

In the year ahead, Amazon plans to grow and improve what it's doing, and it knows it can’t do that alone. "We want to continue to dive into our partnerships," Gupta said, which include major content providers such as Disney, YouTube, and Apple. Those companies want direct access to their customers. Meanwhile, customers want a de-cluttered experience, one where they can access content simply and easily. Amazon plans to work with more partners and introduce more products to make that happen.

[Photo of Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen (l) and Sandeep Gupta (r) by Jose Castillo.]

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