While many marketers are focused on hot topics such as mobile and second-screen strategies to help bridge experiences for consumers and brands, one area of focus that continues to heat up is the TV device that is connected to the living room screens. And that battle has picked up speed in 2014.
I have previously written about Google’s Chromecast and Apple TV, two of the biggest platform players in the living room space. And years ago I predicted that Apple would dominate the living room, as soon as I saw a remote shipped with a Mac purchase back in 2006. In July 2013, Google launched Chromecast and it’s been growing steady in adoption, even though they have had some user experience issues, as I pointed out last September. Google has since fixed those UX issues. Personally, I prefer the experience on Apple TV but that is due in large part to my owning a Mac, having all my movies on iTunes and being able to screencast to my wall-mounted monitor, right from my desktop.
Apple has always downplayed Apple TV as an experiment vs. a serious revenue generating business. In 2013 Apple TV brought in $1 billion in revenue, and that’s no little experiment. Clearly, the Apple TV business is strong and will continue to find its way into more living rooms this year and beyond. A big difference going forward will be more competition.
Google is getting ready to launch Android TV (in addition to Chromecast), and Google has also turned up their paid media (broadcast, print, outdoor, etc.) to tout other Android entertainment content, an increasingly rich product feature set and UX. Now, Amazon Fire TV has entered the market. And like Google, Amazon will turn up the paid media to support the product launch. To date, Apple has spent little to nothing in paid media for Apple TV. This new three-way battle for that little HDMI port on your flatscreen is on in a big way!
All three players have strong platforms, millions of users and, most importantly, credit cards tied to them to make near frictionless transactions. Apple alone has over 500 million iTunes accounts with associated credit cards. Additionally, all three players have the full regiment of studio and content partnership deals that consumers demand. What will be the deciding factor for who wins, places and shows in this new three-way race?
I’m a firm believer in superior UX tied to a powerful platform. To date, Apple leads the way in this area. Amazon and Google have made significant investments and acquisitions to play catch-up. Google has also learned some hard lessons in this space from their Google TV launch – and from the looks of Android TV, they seem to be in good shape.
So who will win? I don’t know, but I know this battle is going to be fun to watch. And in the end, I believe consumers will win and their wallets, in the form of hardware purchases and downloads, will tell us who the winner is. I already can’t wait to see what they have in store for holiday 2014 marketing efforts.
Marketers should be watching this upcoming battle for the cues about consumer behavior about choice. Apple, Amazon and Google will aim to simplify messaging around product features and benefits for three relatively similar offerings at very competitive price points. And may the best one win the battle for living room HDMI ports!