New data from TiVo shows that almost all smart TV owners use the built-in streaming functionality. Does that mean the market for streaming media players like Roku and Apple TV is about to collapse? Not likely!
Most owners use their smart TV to stream
Streaming media players (SMPs) such as Roku and Apple TV continue to grow in popularity. However, even in homes with an SMP, people still occasionally use the smart TV to watch online video. In the US, new data from TiVo shows that 53% of smart TV owners say they mostly use the built-in streaming capabilities. 42% say they occasionally use the built-in apps and 5% say they never use them. In other words, 95% of smart TV owners use the smart TV portal at least occasionally.
The majority of Western European and Latin America smart TV owners also use the device at least some of the time. 93% of Western Europeans use their smart TV apps at least occasionally, and 96% of Latin Americans do the same.
This data shows the power of being the default screen on the television. Simply controlling the first screen a consumer sees when the television is turned on seems to guarantee at least some streaming usage. The importance of controlling the television “boot screen” explains why vendors such as Roku are keen to license their TV interface to television manufacturers. It maximizes the chance that a television purchaser will opt to stay within the Roku family.
Since consumers would rather use the built-in functionality in the television to stream video, does that mean streaming media players will eventually go away? Maybe. For that to happen, the technology of streaming video needs to stabilize. If that happens, television manufacturers can build their sets to support those standards and consumers won’t need anything else to watch the latest streaming video service.
Technology for streaming not stabilizing
Unfortunately, we are nowhere near reaching a stable point in the delivery of online video. The fundamental standards governing video formats are still changing. For example, there are several different formats for high dynamic range (HDR). Moreover, the industry is in the processes of rolling out a new standard for video compression, high-efficiency video codec (HEVC.)
The technology of streaming is also in flux. A great example of this is the ability to send (or “cast”) video from a smartphone to a smart TV. There is a fundamental schism between Android and iOS making it difficult for a consumer to predict what will happen with their phone and television combination. As well, CE manufacturers like Samsung make it easy to cast between their smartphones and televisions. It is more difficult to do the same between a Motorola smartphone and Samsung TV.
Building TV apps is also a fragmented mess. Building an app for a Samsung TV is completely different than for Roku or Apple TV. App development platforms such as You.I TV’s App Engine and Massive Axis make it easy to create and manage apps across all the TV platforms. However, there is no real convergence in the device app platforms themselves.
Smart TV’s can’t keep up
Without streaming technology stability, smart TVs cannot keep up. Consumers need to upgrade their TV streaming platform every two or three years to keep pace with the latest apps and video standards. Consumers are not choosing to upgrade their televisions that often. In 2014, the average age of a TV in U.S. homes was unchanged from the previous two years, at 5-years old. As well, the average TV replacement cycle has changed little in the last decade and remains at eight years. This despite intense effort from the CE industry to get consumers to upgrade more often. A five to eight-year-old TV cannot stream the best quality video the web has to offer. Neither can it run the latest apps for the most popular services.
Rather than going through the pain and expense of upgrading their TV, it is far easier and cheaper to spend $50 to $100 on the latest Roku or Amazon Fire TV. With no stable point on the horizon for streaming technology, that is a situation that isn’t likely to change for quite some time.
Why it matters
New data shows that 95% of smart TV owners us the built-in streaming capabilities of the TV at least some of the time.
Almost universal usage of smart TV functionality does not mean that people can rely entirely on their TV to stream the highest quality video or run the latest TV app.
The platform for streaming video is evolving, and as long as that is the case the market for streaming media players will remain strong.