By David Tett Consumer Electronics
Amazon Fire OS powered TVs were made available in the USA last year and reports suggest that the online retailer is looking to push these sets outside of the USA, starting with the UK. 2017 saw Westinghouse, Seiki and Element partner with Amazon to release Fire OS sets under each of their respective names. More recently in April of this year, Amazon and Best Buy (once again just US) announced a partnership for a new line of Toshiba branded Fire TV Edition TVs, complete with HDR. This brought a new dimension to Amazon’s strategy in this space – an in-store presence. This added factor of Amazon TVs being available at retail stores (not just online) was significantly important given the overwhelming popularity of large screen sets being bought in bricks and mortar stores.
The inclusion of the TV-set into Amazon’s hardware roster performs an important role, widening its reach amongst consumers, increasing the use and accessibility of its services and ultimately helping to drive sales of other Amazon goods. Amazon already has strong roots into the TV-screen being the number one vendor within the media streamer market worldwide, with over 20% shipment share last year – despite only officially being available in a handful of countries – and has overtaken its main rivals Apple and Google. However, the media streamer market in comparison to smart TV is relatively small, with 53 million streamers expected to ship globally this year versus 155 million smart TVs. The recently launched Fire TV Cube is another step for Amazon in pushing to become the home screen for the TV, but for Amazon the larger prize lies beyond dominance in the low-priced media streamer market. Amazon looks set to position itself within the larger and more competitive TV market going head-to-head with the likes of Samsung and LG.
The potential release of an Amazon powered TV in international markets stems beyond just selling consumers an increasingly commoditised black box, Amazon’s ability to build out a fully-fledged content proposition combining FTA content with its own Prime Video streaming service (including exclusive original content) SVOD and la carte subscriptions through Amazon Channels makes Amazon a pseudo Pay-TV operator and pushes it into the $200 billion+ per year industry enjoyed by the likes of Sky, Liberty Global and AT&T. This position was further strengthened by its recent acquisition of a Premier League rights package from 2019. Yet, perhaps the most compelling point to raise on how this all unfolds is how Amazon’s control across hardware, platform, services and knowledge of its customers, provides it with the ability to offer potentially the most targeted advertising proposition of its kind. So, who should be more concerned – the TV set vendors or the traditional pay-TV operators?
It doesn’t come as any surprise that reports are suggesting Amazon will opt for the UK as its next stage for TV deployment. Amazon has seen its other hardware offerings rollout successfully in the UK; the number of Echo devices, Fire Tablets and Fire TV media streamers in use approached 8 million by the end of 2017 and it has over 7 million Prime members. But Amazon will need to build more TV manufacturer partnerships to be successful, one brand is unlikely to suffice, or does it launch its own branded set? Something Apple has been rumoured to be developing for the past 5 years (but has more recently gone quiet on). Reviewing Amazon’s strategy from a geographical standpoint and retention position, releasing a Fire OS TV internationally would certainly fit in with entire home / lifestyle control, but it may take time for it to reach the same levels it has with its other devices.
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