Set-Top Box Sales Slow, Smart TV Grows

We probably saw this coming: Streaming media players are seeing slow growth. But cord-cutting? That continues.

Park Associates says 39% of U.S. broadband homes own a streaming media player box or stick, up 1% from 2018. Comscore says that number is a bit higher, 49%, also up 1%.

Much of this is the result of growing smart TV, in which OTT apps/software are built into TV set interfaces. Many TV sets include two big streaming apps: Roku has a 39% share, Amazon Fire TV a 30%. Roku has been ahead of the curve for some time -- touting overall “active” users” of all its platforms: set-top boxes, smart TVs and other devices.

In the future, much growth will center around smart TV and other devices from Samsung, Vizio, LG, Apple and others. Many of these companies might be the new gatekeepers for apps and content. They may also be making deals with TV network groups, like NBCU, WarnerMedia and Disney, as well as smaller new non-legacy platforms.



Comscore says 64 million Wi-Fi homes streamed content to a connected TVs in March 2019, up 7% from one year earlier.

Cord-cutting followers will sense this is where the action is -- with many of these smart TV apps stocked with premium legacy TV programming, as well as new, less-premium TV/video platforms.

But will all this be too easy? What will the eventual cost be? Right now, cord-cutters may see many TV programming workarounds. Content is everywhere. But then, those loopholes can quickly close down.

For example, on Wednesday, the four major broadcast networks sued over-the-top nonprofit TV service Locast, which streams over-the-air signals for free. CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC Universal, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Locast hits some high streaming levels of TV network content when high-profile TV blackouts start, due to a breakdown in negotiations between TV network groups and pay TV companies.

Currently, AT&T’s DirecTV has a message on channels, noting where CBS TV stations are running, directing consumers to head to a Locast app to get CBS programming.

The rise of set-top boxes wasn't the start of the current wave of cord-cutting TV homes. But it, and smart TVs, gave the trend a firm boost. What comes next? 

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