Amazon on Wednesday will officially join the smart TV race, crowding into the retail shelves, virtual and physical, of a cutthroat, low-margin business.
The good news for Amazon (and bad news for Roku and Google): Amazon controls much of that shelf space, and it can sell its TVs at pretty much any price it chooses.
Enter the keywords "smart TV" into the search menu on Amazon.com right now, and its Amazon Fire TV "Omni" and "4-Series" product lines, reportedly manufactured by China's TCL, surface first, above Roku and Android TV/Google TV-powered TVs branded by their Korean, Chinese and Japanese manufacturers. Put a pre-order in your cart and the set can arrive on your doorstep as soon as Friday. (A spec sheet for both Amazon product lines, courtesy of our sister pub, Tom's Guide, is pasted below.)
Amazon is selling its high-end Fire TV Omni series in 43-, 50-, 55-, 65- and 75-inch iterations, with the TVs delivering a 60-hertz refresh rate and supporting 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Vision, HDR 10, HLG, and Dolby Digital Plus. Omni Series prices start at $410 and top out at $1,100 for the 75-incher.
Notably, Amazon's Omni Series seems to be priced in-between TCL's Roku-powered, "QLED"-based Series-5 and Series-6 product lines. Of course, with Amazon able to adjust to loss-leader strategies, if needed, that could change.
Indeed, for the more price-sensitive end of the market, the Amazon Fire TV 4-Series is already undercutting TCL's seemingly identical Roku-powered 4-Series, offering the the low-end 43-inch Fire TV iteration for $369 vs. $379. Amazon Fire TV Series-4, which supports 4K, HDR 10 and HLG, also come in 50- and 55-inch sizes.
In case you haven't tracked the global smart TV market closely in the last few years, TCL had been King of the Undercutters, capturing huge portions of market regions like North America by selling its 4K flat-screens at significantly lower prices than Korean rivals Samsung and LG.
Amazon is one of the three biggest sellers in the U.S. of smart TVs, along with Walmart and Best Buy. Both Walmart and Best Buy have their own store brands, "onn." and "Insignia," respectively. However, neither has a connected TV ecosystem like Amazon's Fire TV.
Amazon is getting into the smart TV race late along with Comcast, which just debuted its Hisense-manufactured, X1-powered XClass TVs on the physical shelves of Walmart.
Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!
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