Amazon Joins the Smart TV Crowd! (Or Will They Lead It?)

By TechNext Archives
Cover image for  article: Amazon Joins the Smart TV Crowd! (Or Will They Lead It?)

Unless you live under a rock, you know that consumption of OTT content on CTV devices has exploded because of the pandemic and how it impacted viewer consumption habits. You also are likely aware of the streaming wars that are being waged between legacy broadcasters and OTT or digitally native players like Hulu and others. Now, as the market continues to heat up, the device battle is just beginning to really get interesting.

I have long suggested that the first manufacturer to give away free high-quality hardware in exchange for the right to serve ads to that HH could win all the chips. To my surprise, no manufacturer has done so yet. To understand why, you need to understand how most of these manufacturers make money and recognize for a Samsung, for example, ad revenue is such a small piece of their overall business that there would need to be a seismic shift in the way they approach things for my idea to ever take hold.

But things are about to get interesting! Both Amazon and Comcast have announced their own TVs, and you can already buy both of them, the first from Amazon, and the Comcast Hisense-manufactured, X1-powered XClass TVs can be found on the shelves at Walmart just in time for Black Friday! While Amazon has not yet made the TV “free,” they have undercut Roku and TCL, the low-cost leaders.

Until now, Samsung, LG and VIZIO have dominated the market followed by smaller manufacturers and newcomers (Sony, Roku, etc.), but in the last few years, TCL had been King of the Undercutters, capturing huge portions of North America by selling its 4K flat-screens at significantly lower prices than Korean rivals Samsung and LG.

Amazon controls the shelf space and will push their own TV over Roku, Samsung, VIZIO and the like. They also have so much more to gain by controlling the living room. From shopping to ad revenue, the giant can truly bring t-commerce and advertising to a whole new level since they are the glass, the store and the ad-server.

Amazon is selling its high-end Fire TV Omni series in 43-, 50-, 55-, 65- and 75-inch iterations, with the TVs delivering a 60-hertz refresh rate and supporting 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Vision, HDR 10, HLG and Dolby Digital Plus. Omni Series prices start at $410 and top out at $1,100 for the 75-incher, but with Amazon able to adjust to loss-leader strategies, if needed, that could change.

Indeed, for the more price-sensitive end of the market, the Amazon Fire TV 4-Series is already undercutting TCL's seemingly identical Roku-powered 4-Series, offering the low-end 43-inch Fire TV iteration for $369 vs. $379. Amazon Fire TV Series-4, which supports 4K, HDR 10 and HLG, also come in 50- and 55-inch sizes.

Amazon is one of the three biggest sellers in the U.S. of smart TVs, along with Walmart and Best Buy. Both Walmart and Best Buy have their own store brands, "onn." and "Insignia," respectively. However, neither has a connected TV ecosystem like Amazon's Fire TV.

If I worked at Roku, Samsung, LG or VIZIO, I would be nervous.

Bezos and team can invest to make the very best TV with the very best quality. They will now control more rooms in the home, which they had already begun to take over with their Alexa/Echo smart speakers.

I would expect sales for this holiday period to be a bellwether to determine how quickly they might disintermediate other players in the space. Early reviews of the TV seem strong. What they have and a company like Roku does not is distribution channels like no other and if they do what I suspect they might over the holidays or on a prime day (make the TV free or next to free to allow for shopping and ads) I will bet large on them winning this battle.

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