Streaming media player study: Roku leads U.S. market, but Apple TV still ahead globally

Parks Associates announced a new report today showing that more than 25% of U.S. households will have a streaming media player by 2015, with continued robust sales and new entries such as Amazon Fire TV driving expansion of this connected CE category. The report, The Evolving Market For Streaming Media Devices,found Roku accounted for nearly one-half of streaming media players (46%) purchased in the U.S. in 2013, while Apple, its closest competitor, had 26%.

Roku is also the most-used streaming media player in the U.S. Among U.S. broadband households with a streaming media player, 44% use a Roku player the most versus 26% that use Apple TV the most. The gap has widened since 2013, when 37% of streaming media player owners used Roku most and 24% used Apple TV most.

“Multiple factors have allowed Roku to outpace Apple in U.S. sales and usage,” said Barbara Kraus, director, research, Parks Associates, in a statement. “Roku has always had a close association with Netflix, the largest source of video downloads, and currently offers more than 1,700 channel apps as well as a choice of models with different features and price points, all of which appeal to consumers’ purchasing instincts. With Amazon entering this CE category, there will be renewed pressure on all players to develop the best combination of ‘can’t miss’ content with a simple and intuitive interface.”

Parks Associates: Steaming media player usage 2013-2014

The CE category for streaming media players has been robust despite competition from streaming “sticks” such as the Google Chromecast. According to Parks Associates’ 1Q 2014 survey of 10,000 U.S. broadband households, Google Chromecast sold as many units in six months as Roku sold in 2013, but overall, usage of the Chromecast has steadily declined since its introduction.

Parks Associates analysts report companies, to drive usage, will increase efforts to secure high-quality content, through deals such as the HBO and Amazon agreement, which brings HBO shows to Amazon Prime’s streaming video service. In addition, should Apple release a new version of Apple TV with more functionality in 2014, it will create a more competitive market in the U.S.

“While approximately 50% of U.S. households have at least one Apple product, such as an iPhone or iPad, the company has not yet been able to leverage this success for its Apple TV offering,” Kraus said. “Apple has not committed support and promotion to its Apple TV product line in the U.S., and its sales reflect this fact. But they are the global sales leader in this category, having sold approximately 20 million units worldwide as of April 2014, compared to an estimated eight million for Roku at the end of 2013. As Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, emerges as a new competitor in this space, it could awaken the sleeping giant that is Apple.”

Parks Associates reports global sales for streaming media players will reach nearly 50 million by 2017 while broadband household penetration in the U.S. will exceed 38%.

Source: Parks Associates

MacDailyNews Take: Awaken sleeping giant, awaken!

Apple TV SDK, Apple TV App Store, Apple gaming controller, Jimmy getting ink that Eddy couldn’t get, NFL Sunday Ticket, Premier League, La Liga exclusive deals, live concert exclusives… The sky’s the limit!

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Apple TV sales topped $1 bilion in 2013, becoming Apple’s fastest growing hardware – February 28, 2014
Tim Cook and Apple TV: A ‘hobby’ no longer – October 7, 2013
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25 Comments

  1. I call bullshit.
    Anyone can make this claim if you are only measuring from a particular streaming source, say Hulu, Netflix or some online music sourse. There are millions of Apple TV’s that have been sold and unless you report sales figures for the Roku and what they are measuring, then the story can be bent any way you would like or in this case, any way the company paying for the study wants you to.
    I use a few Apple TV’s several times a week but not one of the services I use it for would show up in their report.

    Again , I call bullshit.

    1. Yes, this “research” is nonsense. Apple has sold over 10 million Apple TVs last year, and the research claims (though not in this press-release already) only 2 million were in USA — highly doubtful.

      1. That is not as doubtful as you think. To put it another way: why would Apple TV have a vast increase in American sales in 2013? The device has existed since 2007, has not received a hardware update since 2012, and that hardware update was minor. Further, it is no longer the top set top box in terms of hardware, performance or channels/content: Roku is both. It also does not incorporate the latest design/form factor innovation (an HDMI dongle that makes it smaller, more power efficient and cheaper): the Chromecast and the latest Roku offer both. There also has not been a massive increase in new iPod, Mac, iPad or iPhone customers to drive Apple TV adoption. And also the usage stats are what they are. Nearly half of TV streaming is done on a Roku. If millions of Apple TVs were sold in America last year, what are these people using their Apple TVs for?

        It is far more likely that the international markets are just now getting into the set top box thing. And as Roku is not sold outside North America, it is very likely that nearly all of those 10 million Apple TVs are being sold in China, Japan and India to people who are now buying iPhones. Many of those people initially bought cheap Android (especially Samsung) phones to become smartphone users for the first time and then upgraded to iPhones. Once into the Apple ecosystem by way of the iPhone, they learned about the Apple TV and bought those as well.

        That is a much more likely scenario than expecting someone to believe that Americans rushed to buy a nearly 2 year old device that costs more than 3 of the 4 Roku models. Put it this way: lots of Apple diehards that would never buy a Windows or Android device own Rokus instead of/in addition to an Apple TV, and that should tell you something.

    2. You can call any vulgar, sophomoric, profane expletive you choose. The reality is that the Roku sells more than Apple TV because it is (generally) a newer, better device, and further one with multiple form factors and price points, and one that was designed to do one thing and do it very well: stream content.

      The Apple TV? Not so much. Unlike Roku, it was never designed to be a standalone device, but to be a complementary device in the larger Apple ecosystem. Its functionality was designed and meant to hang off that of an iPod, iPhone, iPad, Mac or at the very least someone running iTunes on Windows.

      So an Apple TV is a better buy for someone who is already invested in the Apple ecosystem. Otherwise, for other people – indeed most people – a standalone device like Roku is a better deal, especially if those people are Amazon Prime customers.

      “I use a few Apple TV’s several times a week but not one of the services I use it for would show up in their report” … this report is not about that. This report is about people who use set top boxes and dongles FOR STREAMING TO THEIR TVs. That is where the comparison to Roku, Chromecast, Fire TV, Netgear etc. is relevant.

      1. Wow, when did the word bullshit become such a “vulgar, sophomoric, profane expletive”? Mr. Altman are you just as critical to those who drop f-bomb or the many other expletives I read on MDN or just this persons particular use of the word?

        I can tell you are a fan of the Roku and obviously much smarter then the rest if us based on the amount of time you’ve spent trying to convince us you are right.

        Congratulations you win. You are the smartest person in the room.

  2. I’ve got two apple tv’s (latest) and they are good. Bought my first Roku two weeks ago for PLEX, and I have to say, even to I’m an apple person, I really really like the roku.

      1. A better question: why wouldn’t it be better?

        A) The Apple TV was designed to be a complimentary device in the Apple ecosystem. Roku was designed – with heavy input from Netflix incidentally – solely to present and stream online content to your TV. So while Apple TV can do more things than the Roku – and is “better” in that sense – Roku is better for the ONE thing that it does than the Apple TV and any other streamer. Better streaming performance, more channels, better remote, easier to use (because it only does one thing) … Apple TV has a better UI but that is it.

        B) The Apple TV hasn’t had a legit upgrade since 2012, and that was a small hardware one, to support HD 1080p and to upgrade the chip from A4 to A5. So it is basically the same device that Apple has been selling since 2010. But Roku’s “revised 1st generation” (a marketing ploy, it was actually their second generation) device supported 1080p, dual band 802.11n Wi-Fi etc. way back in 2010, so that means that Roku’s box from 4 years ago was nearly as good as the box that Apple is selling today. (That is right … the 3rd generation Apple TV was needed to catch up to the alleged first generation Roku). And that was 4 years ago. The 3rd generation Roku has a 900 GHz dual core processor (Apple TV has an 800 GHz single core), the best remote of any streaming box, supports streaming 3D movies, and has video games. And that device came out early 2013 … it is nearly 18 months old. Roku scrambled to come out with a relatively cheap streaming stick with Roku 2nd generaton technology specs to compete against the Chromecast and that may have distracted them a bit, but following their general schedule, a fourth generation Roku should come out in 2015. Expect it to have a processor that is faster than the Amazon Fire TV’s quad core Snapdragon 600, enhanced support for gaming, another UI redesign and some form of voice search (yes, Amazon Fire TV is now the best box, making Apple TV no better than third) and possible support for – 4K TV.

        The next Apple TV will have to respond to the advances that Roku, Fire TV and (yes) Chromecast have made in the 4 years and counting that Apple has been asleep at the wheel. Of course, what they introduce will merely serve as baselines for the 4th generation of Roku, the second generation of Fire TV and possibly the second generation of Android TV (which 4th generation Roku will also respond to).

        But again, make no mistake: Roku is the leader in this space. But since set top boxes and dongles are all they do, they pretty much need to be in order to stay in business.

      1. Ted you know it’s more than about market share (Apple’s made some huge smart phone gains, about to take far more, and of course most of the profit share) but having said that market share WILL be important for a streaming device. Time will tell if Apple’s version will be compelling to make it the leader but I wouldn’t bet against Apple. I think the switch flipping is more a matter of cable channels, studios and broadcast TV flipping and saying “yes.”

  3. Roku is one of the few add on devices to my network that is not Apple. Frankly, it’s a great product and they take cared to update mine periodically to add new features such as YouTube. Ideally, I would have a Roku and an Apple TV, but I am trying to limit my TV watching and having both would make it very difficult.

    1. I have one Apple TV and two Roku boxes. The Apple TV is on my big flat screen, and the two Rokus are on tv’s that don’t have HDMI. If Apple TV worked on legacy connections I would have three of them.

  4. Apple is leaving billions of dollars on the table. I said it years ago, but the MDN take is spot-on. New Apple TV with memory, an Apple TV SDK, and a simple Bluetooth controller – frickin’ STAT! Yes, for a 32GB device, the price would have to double to $199, but Apple and the Apple TV will then be a SERIOUS contender in the living room.

    Keep the current Apple TV around for iTunes, Airplay, Netflix, etc. on secondary TV’s, and introduce the higher-end one for games, etc.

    Airplay is awesome, but it sucks for games and video quality. We need apps ON the Apple TV for that.

    Come on, Apple!

  5. Agreed.

    For twice the price we should expect 64GB, game controller and apps.

    Apple could blow the competition out of the water in a heartbeat.

    All households have TVs, but only half own an Apple product.

    Jony, quit playing around with crayon icon drawings and get to work … ;~)

  6. Google is interesting in this space (if by interesting you mean with no coherent strategy). They went through the trouble to help develop Miracast so that Android phones and tablets could screen-mirror on TVs, but they do not develop or back a set top box or software SDK to take advantage of it. Instead, Netgear and a bunch of other small companies developed set top boxes to take advantage that not only did not perform well, but were expensive considering that screen mirroring were all they did … they did not include Netflix streaming or anything else. Then Google abandons it in order to spend years promoting ChromeOS and the idea of “casting” from browsers and applications instead of screen mirroring, and they release Chromebooks and Chromecast to support it. Here is the funny part: Chromecast always had the ability to mirror Android screens.

    But A: IT DOES NOT USE MIRACAST SO WHY GO THROUGH ALL THE EFFORT TO DEVELOP MIRACAST IN THE FIRST PLACE. Ironically, if Miracast ever catches on, it will be because of its ability to mirror Windows, not Android. (Not that Microsoft is pushing screen mirroring for its phones or tablets in the first place. Alas, Microsoft …)

    B) Chromecast always had the ability to mirror Android BUT GOOGLE SIMPLY REFUSED TO TURN THE FEATURE ON. Why? Because mirroring Android devices would undercut their push on browser and application based “casting.” It was only after the media reported that Chromecast usage was dropping like a stone that Google quickly responded by rushing to release a software update to Chromecast to enable the screen mirroring hardware feature THAT CHROMECAST HAS HAD SINCE DAY ONE. And since the update was released so fast – literally less than one month after the “Chromecast usage suffers sharp decline” media articles appeared – it means that Google already had the code available and tested. They just refused to release it until/because the media reported that no one was using the Chromecast anymore. So they did this in order to get the usage rates back up so that developers would continue to make and support apps for it. Absurd.

    And oh yes: they are totally junking their “casting to your TV” strategy anyway by coming out with Android TV. Except that even though they announced it at Google I/O, they do not have an actual product yet. They do not even have any OEMs lined up. They have not decided whether the emphasis will be a set top box, a line of set top boxes, a dongle or smart TVs. Why? Because they scrambled to push Android TV out only after the obvious success of Amazon’s Fire TV set top box. Which is no big deal, by the way. Amazon Fire’s set top box is basically a Roku with voice search (which Google already has) and an app store and bluetooth (for the remote and game controllers). Now some independent OEMs have long had devices similar to Fire TV available (Android devices with bluetooth for controllers, keyboards, mouse and HDMI output to connect to HDTVs) but with no backing or ability to advertise or support from Google to upgrade the OS they didn’t sell. But it took Amazon putting out a device that Google should have and could have 3 years ago to spur them into action. And it may already be too late, as Amazon’s device is going to force Apple to introduce their own app store-enabled device. And get this: will Android TV use Miracast or ChromeOS casting? Does Google even know yet? If they choose the latter, Miracast is dead unless Microsoft does something with it. (But Microsoft is instead considering some sort of way to marry their OS and devices with Android instead of working on Miracast to support Windows 8 and 9.) But if they choose the former, it will make Chromecast a useless device. Even if they push the Android TV OS to update the Chromecast firmware somehow, the device does not have enough storage to be able to store apps and data because it was designed to offload that stuff to the device that will be “casting” (and now mirroring) to it.

    Oh yes, and now that there are various efforts to make Android into an OS that runs PCs (totally independent of Google by the way who would rather you buy a Chromebook) that strategy and the hardware that goes with it is soon to be gone too.

    It is amazing. Google TV was a flop. ChromeOS and Chromebooks are a qualified success only because it happened to come at the right time to exploit the mess that is Windows 8. Had it been released a few years earlier, it would have been another Google TV. Amazon’s set top box is forcing them to already give up on Chromecast after less than a year. And Android would have been a total failure had Samsung’s $100 billion in advertising (seriously) plus had not the OEMs and enthusiasts not made vital, necessary improvements to the OS that Google didn’t even know about, let alone have an approach for fixing themselves. Many of the Android updates has merely been Google adopting features introduced by OEMs and carriers as bloatware, or stuff that the open source community and jailbreakers made.

    Honestly, Android is succeeding in spite of Google, not because of it.

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