There’s more ways to consume content than ever, and the coronavirus pandemic has only supercharged existing trends, making smart TVs one of the fastest growing marketplaces. Time spent streaming grew 44% year over year between the fourth quarters of 2019 and 2020, led by smart TVs with a massive 157% increase in viewing hours, according to data from Conviva.
Viewers are also increasingly watching within their smart TVs’ native apps rather than an external device like an Amazon Fire Stick or a Roku Streaming Stick. Smart TVs nearly doubled their market share in 2020, up to 16.9% from 9.4%.
But it’s nearly impossible to separate smart TVs and connected TV devices. Products such as Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Chromecast dominate the market, taking a nearly 50% share in global viewing time, according to Conviva, while gaming consoles like PlayStation and Xbox made up 9%.
As the landscape becomes increasingly complicated, Adweek looked at each of these products to break down just what each platform offers.
Share of big screen connected TV viewing: 31% Available as: streaming device, smart TV (manufacturing partners include TCL, Hisense, Phillips, Sanyo) Biggest OTT app omission: none In-house content offering: The Roku Channel
Roku has long controlled the market when it comes to streaming devices, taking a 31% share of all big screen connected TV viewing in the fourth quarter. The company just reported another record year and quarter, adding more than 14 million accounts in 2020 to exceed 50 million. Roku boasts a 38% share of all smart TVs sold in partnership with manufacturers such as TCL, Hisense, Phillips and Sanyo.
“We always believed that all TV will be streamed, and this shifted into high gear this past year. As the theatrical window collapsed and movies moved to same day streaming, consumer expectations for a streaming-first video experience only deepened,” Scott Rosenberg, svp and general manager of Roku’s platform business, told Adweek. “The key takeaway we are seeing is that the pandemic accelerated long-term shifts that were already underway, and both Roku and consumers will benefit from these trends. Consumers moved in large numbers to streaming, and they are not going back [to linear TV].”
The company now has every major OTT service on its platform after it closed high-profile distribution deals late last year with Peacock (in September) and HBO Max (in December). Roku also snagged the exclusive streaming rights to programming from short-form streamer Quibi, including more than a dozen new programs that never aired before that service’s quick shutdown last year. That Quibi content will ultimately land on its free, ad-supported The Roku Channel, but the company hasn’t yet said when that will occur.
In addition to its physical TV partnerships, Roku also sells connected TV devices that provide the same interface and apps as the TV itself, including multiple streaming sticks with HD, 4K and HDR options. The company has also expanded into compatible streambars and soundbars.
Amazon Fire TV
Share of big screen connected TV viewing: 19% Available as: streaming device, smart TV (manufacturing partners include Insignia and Toshiba) Biggest OTT app omission: Peacock In-house content offering: IMDb TV
Amazon Fire TV occupies a 19% share of big screen connected TV viewing, and like Roku exceeded 50 million monthly active users around the world in 2020. Amazon does not manufacture its own TVs, and instead opts to partner with other technology companies: In 2020, the Fire TV edition powered over 80 TV and sound bar models across 10 countries through smart TV partners, including Toshiba and Insignia in the U.S.
The company launched a Best Buy partnership in 2018, making the retailer the exclusive seller for more than 10 4K and HD Fire TV edition models made by Toshiba and Best Buy’s Insignia brands. That relationship expanded earlier this year when the companies announced same-day in-store pick-up at Best Buy for Fire TVs purchased through Amazon.
The Fire TV platform carries nearly every major OTT provider, but the service is notably still at an impasse with NBCUniversal’s Peacock. It also struggled to strike a deal with HBO Max last year, a standoff that was resolved in November. Fire TV owners can also get a complimentary year of Discovery’s subscription service Food Network Kitchen.
When it comes to connected TV devices, Amazon debuted a new Fire TV stick that it said is 50% more powerful than the previous version, with HDR and Dolby Atmos supported. The company also launched the Fire TV Stick Lite, its “most affordable” Fire TV device yet at $29.99.
Amazon’s ad-supported platform IMDb TV launched in January 2019 as IMDb Freedive before rebranding in June 2019. Unlike The Roku Channel, IMDb TV carries original content including a reboot of crime drama series Leverage and Judy Sheindlin’s upcoming successor program to her long-running Judge Judy.
IMDb TV just became available on Roku, a few months after that platform’s The Roku Channel launched on Amazon Fire TV.
Share of big screen connected TV viewing: 11% Available as: smart TV Biggest OTT app omission: Peacock In-house content offering: Samsung TV Plus
The third largest player, Samsung TV, takes up 11% of the market share of connected TV viewing time on big screens. The world’s top-selling TV manufacturer announced a new batch of TVs during the CES 2021 expo in January, including new 8K TVs and a Neo QLED overhaul.
Samsung smart TVs carry nearly all of the major OTT players, but, like Amazon Fire TV, the company has yet to come to an agreement with Peacock. However, owners of more recent Samsung TV models can work around the lack of a native app by using AirPlay from an iOS device.
Samsung is one of the few smart TVs with the native HBO Max app, which is only officially supported on TVs powered by Android TV and made by Samsung.
Samsung also has its own free ad-supported channel, Samsung TV Plus. The AVOD has over 160 live U.S. channels that include news, entertainment sports and lifestyle content. The channel first launched in 2015 and is now in 12 countries with over 740 channels worldwide.
Other major smart TV players
Android TV Share of big screen connected TV viewing: 5% Available as: smart TV (manufacturers include Sony, Hisense and TCL) Biggest OTT app omissions: none In-house content offering: none
LG Share of big screen connected TV viewing: 5% Available as: smart TV Biggest OTT app omission: HBO Max In-house content offering: LG Channels
Vizio Share of big screen connected TV viewing: 5% Available as: smart TV Biggest OTT app omission: HBO Max In-house content offering: WatchFree
LG TV, Android TV and Vizio TV each claim 5% of the big screen connected TV market share. LG and Vizio both make their own televisions like Samsung, whereas Android TV partners with multiple manufacturers including Hisense, TCL and Sony.
Vizio’s SmartCast platform serves as the hub for streaming apps on the TV, as well as hundreds of free streaming channels on WatchFree, powered by Pluto TV. The company announced SmartCast 4.0 at CES in 2020, which features a faster, more personalized experience to users and the addition of its first-ever voice remote.
On LG smart TV devices, customers have 190 options of LG Channels, powered by Xumo and Pluto TV. While HBO Max isn’t available on either Vizio or LG, Peacock is included on both TVs; Android TV carries both streamers.
Other connected TV devices
Apple TV Share of big screen connected TV viewing: 6% Available as: connected TV device Biggest OTT app omission: none In-house content offering: Apple TV+
Chromecast Share of big screen connected TV viewing: 5% Available as: connected TV device Biggest OTT app omission: none In-house content offering: none
PlayStation, Xbox Share of big screen connected TV viewing: 6% each Available as: gaming console Biggest OTT app omission: none In-house content offering: none
Connected TV devices work on any smart (or “dumb”) TV with an HDMI port in households with a broadband connection. Gaming consoles PlayStation and Xbox each have a 6% piece of connected TV viewing time on TV screens; Apple TV devices also account for 6%, and Chromecast takes 5%.
Overall, connected TV devices make up a 49% global share of viewing time by device, led by Roku and Amazon Fire TV streaming devices.
HBO Max is available on all aforementioned devices, while Peacock is on all but Amazon Fire TV.
The Apple TV app, native to the Apple TV 4K or HD product, also features the company’s Apple TV+ SVOD service. Apple recently began making its app available to other connected TV devices and smart TVs, including Samsung, LG, Vizio, Roku and Amazon Fire TVs, with the app most recently launching on Google’s Chromecast.