Streaming Sticks Now A Hot Commodity

TV-connected streaming sticks are rapidly becoming a hot commodity.

Amazon, looking to apply some competitive heat to the popular Google Chromecast streaming adapter and the recently launched Roku Streaming Stick, is taking a stab at the market for small form-factor media devices with the Fire TV Stick.

Introduced last week and set to start shipping on Nov. 19, Amazon’s new HDMI-connected TV stick will sell for $39, putting it in pricing contention with the $35 Chromecast and the $49.99 Roku devices.

Beyond price, these products share both differences and similarities. As with Chromecast, Amazon’s new gadget will also let users fling or mirror content from their phone or tablet to the TV and allow users to control the device via a mobile app. Fire TV Stick users will have the added option to pair the device with a separate remote control that includes a voice-based search feature. (Roku’s Streaming Stick also supports a separate remote to navigate an interface that provides access to more than 1,800 “channels,” or apps.)

The WiFi-connected Fire TV Stick, which comes equipped with 1 Gigabyte of RAM and 8 GB of storage, also lets users to mirror their mobile screens on the television.

Firing Away At Prime Members

Last week, Amazon primed the sales pump by offering the product to Prime subscribers for $19 over a span of two days. Amazon declined to reveal any sales figures, but it appears that the tactic sparked some intense interest in the device in the early going.

As the deadline approached for Prime members to get in on the $19 deal last Tuesday (Oct. 28), Amazon, citing “popular demand,” told site visitors that orders placed that day wouldn’t arrive until after Jan. 1, 2015 — more than five weeks after the Fire TV Stick was scheduled to start shipping.

Google faced a similar surge when it launched the Chromecast last summer, as electronic retailers, including Amazon, quickly ran out of stock and forced Google to nix a promotion that offered three free months of Netflix service with each Chromecast purchase.

Amazon could use a hit following the flop of the Fire Phone, which launched in June; Amazon took a $170 million charge for unsold Fire Phones in the third quarter.

The Fire TV Stick is not Amazon’s only video streaming play. It will represent a smaller, less-expensive complement to the $99 Fire TV box, which was launched in April and is competes with products such as the Apple TV, Roku’s box lineup, and the Nexus Player, the first device to be powered by Google’s new Android TV platform.

All of those products hit on a big streaming trend — recent studies show that connected TVs have become the platform of choice for in-home streaming.

Like the Fire TV box, Amazon’s HDMI stick will also support up to 1080p video resolution, a range of games, and an array of apps, including Netflix, YouTube, Amazon’s own Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Vevo, A&E, PBS Kids, Spotify, Prime Music and authenticated TV Everywhere offerings from Showtime, ESPN and The Walt Disney Co.