-- Amazon Fire TV
Content: Amazon Instant Video, Bloomberg, ESPN, Hulu, iHeart Radio, Netflix, Showtime, Vevo
-- Apple TV
Content: Bloomberg, ESPN, Hulu, iHeart Radio, iTunes, MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, Netflix, NHL GameCenter, Showtime, Vevo, Vimeo,
-- Google Chromecast
Content: Crackle, Google Play, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Pandora, Rdio, Vudu, YouTube
-- Roku 3 & Roku Stick
Cost: $99.99 and $35
Content: Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, Hulu, Netflix, Redbox Instant, Showtime, YouTube and Original Channels (1000)
Source: The New York Times, B&C, The Wall Street Journal
Inexpensive hardware, promising on-demand programming options, mass hypothesized migration from expensive pay TV services, and rivalry between digital media behemoths (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft) have fueled trade coverage. Mostly smoke, in my estimation. Through all of the ink and marketing promotion, OTT device deployment has only peeled away errant subscribers of the 95 million customers of cablers, satcasters and telcos. Oftentimes, the devices are purchased in addition to existing pay TV subscriptions.
The fire resides in the new challenge for distribution hegemony. Not content versus distribution – a debate that commenced in the 1990s and dissipated, as all agreed that content reigns supreme after CBS brought cabler Time Warner to its knees last fall in its retransmission fee negotiation. But rather, the heat will be generated by the friction between hardware and software competitors. Each of the aforementioned digital Goliaths has been ramping up device manufacturing to augment customer loyalty through a halo affect and extend control over their software services. As CBS humbled Time Warner Cable last September, Apple launched its iTunes Radio app. To access the app, all one had to do if one owned an iOS device or Mac computer was to update to the latest software. Distribution of content has never been simpler -- providing of course, there is sibling hardware.
Whether Amazon’s fireTV succeeds or not, in its present guise, the gaze of the media community should focus on how Amazon (and its rivals) plans to roll up its everything-commerce software applications and transactional data -- music, TV, electronics, books, audiobooks, instant video, marketplace, video games, food -- within its present and future hardware/device distribution. The battle over the living room is but one theater of operations, however grandiose, one that in most probability will glean little OTT traction. With that said, between the cloud, the Internet of Things, software and distribution of devices, competing technologies will be battling over the household -- one room at a time.