Amazon reportedly beats Apple TV in 2014 as streaming video gets serious

Amazon quickly made its mark on the media streamer landscape in 2014, but this year could look a lot different.

Amazon Fire TV
Jared Newman

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Amazon’s decision to enter the media streamer business has paid off, according to a study from Parks Associates.

The research firm found that Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire TV Stick took third place in U.S. device shipments last year, overtaking Apple TV. Still, Roku held onto its lead from 2013, with 34 percent of shipments, while Google’s Chromecast remained in second place with 23 percent. Parks Associates says that nearly 20 percent of U.S. homes now own at least one streaming set-top box, while 8 percent own a stick-sized device such as Fire TV Stick, Chromecast, or Roku Streaming Stick.

Apple still hung onto third place in terms of device usage, with 17 percent, compared to 14 percent for Amazon devices. This makes sense given that iOS-powered Apple TV models have been on sale for a few years now. Again, Roku maintains a commanding lead with 37 percent, while Chromecast’s 19 percent doesn’t put it too far ahead for second place.

Amazon came out firing with two streaming media devices last year. The $99 Fire TV launched in April 2014, and the $39 Fire TV Stick arrived in November. Both devices emphasize streaming video from Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant, though they also offer third-party apps such as Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go.

Apple, meanwhile, hasn’t altered its living room hardware since 2013, when it added some minor tweaks to the 2012 model. Originally priced at $99, Apple slashed the price to $69 earlier this year, amid rumors of new hardware on the way.

Why this matters: Horse race aside, the study shows that the media streamer business is no longer a hobby, as more people turn to online video for their evening entertainment. Competition is intensifying, not just from Amazon, but from a slew of Android TV devices such as the Nvidia Shield (which launched in May) and Google’s Nexus Player. Apple will likely get a lot more serious about the living room as well, with a new Apple TV reportedly coming next month. All of this means that Parks Associates’ results next year should be a lot different—and a lot more interesting.

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