OTT’s New Devices Make a Splash

Consumers with visions of streaming video dancing in their heads will have a new batch of over-the-top devices available to them this holiday season. Those choices will run the gamut with respect to pricing and capabilities, starting on the low end with the new (but more-capable) Google Chromecast adapter; to new players from Roku, Amazon and Apple; to higher-end products from TiVo and Nvidia.

Each product category will fulfill different needs. While the latest, greatest Chromecast and new Roku 4 and Amazon Fire TV represent core streaming platforms, TiVo’s Bolt mixes over-the-top options with the ability to also support cable pay TV services as well as free over-the-air TV signals. The Nvidia Shield, meanwhile, combines streaming, over-the-air TV and premium gaming.

Heading into the holidays, the players will be looking to hold their ground or narrow the gap with their rivals. According to Parks Associates, Roku topped the OTT streaming-device market in 2014 with 29% of sales in the U.S., followed by the first-generation Chromecast (20%), the prior-Apple TV (17%) and the original Amazon Fire TV box (10%).

Even with the new crop of products, which include several models that support 4K, “I don’t expect that [these new models] will dramatically change the playing field,” Barbara Kraus, director for research at Parks Associates, said.

While the price of the new Apple TV puts it into a premium-level category, Kraus said, the new product could make some noise this holiday season.

“I think Apple TV will do well simply because it’s been three or four years since the last version came out,” she said. “People who have one and like it will be willing to upgrade.”

The competition will have a tough time unseating Roku, though, she said.

In addition to topping sales last year, Roku remains the most-used platform in U.S. broadband homes. According to Parks Associates Q3 data, Roku led usage at 35%, followed by the Chromecast (20%), Apple TV (16%), and Amazon Fire TV (13.5%).

Looking ahead, Kraus believes streaming sticks will eventually unseat the OTT boxes.

“The real disruptor in this category was the Chromecast when it was introduced in 2013,” she said. “Over the next five years, I think you’re going to see many more sticks sold than box players.”