Picking among all the streaming devices

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

21 February 2017

There is opportunity here for simplicity but the market is confusing now

It’s Monday and I have an hour to spare after work. I decide to hit up an old standby. Best Buy, and look at streaming devices.

This isn’t surprising in the slightest if you’re an avid reader of my blog. I have a torrid love/hate relationship with the brand: whether I’m poking at flaws with the Rewards Program or making observations on its evolving brand.

“Take note: one of these companies could seize market share by owning an identity within the category. And simplifying the category.”

But, despite the intro, this isn’t about Best Buy. It’s about the litany of streaming devices available.

streaming devicesMy plan was to pick up an Amazon Fire Stick. But Best Buy was entirely out of stock. I was bummed because Amazon technology is high up on my list these days. I traipsed to the TV section of the store and located the litany of streaming devices on sale: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Google Chromecast.

Scanning the goods, I was reminded of one of the bonus scenes from the film Borat. Borat was in the dairy aisle of a grocery store asking an employee about the difference between the twenty-plus bags of cheeses they had in stock. The gist behind the segment: there wasn’t any difference between the cheeses. Which begs the question: why do we need so much in the first place?

Just how many options of streaming devices do we need?

It’s all ridiculous, really. While I love Amazon, does it need to offer two types of Fire Sticks and three Fire TVs (both with and without remotes with audio recognition and a gaming controller). Roku is even worse. It sports three to four different base stations and several HDMI streaming sticks. Apple offers two TV devices too. While Google has a singular Chromecast.

And here’s the thing, these units all offer basically the same apps. (Aside from Apple, which has a few of its own apps.) So why would I need an Amazon over Google or Roku? Each gets me to the same end game: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and Amazon. Seriously then, what’s the deal with all these options when we don’t need all of these streaming devices?

I looked for an answer from CNET, a trusted tech review site, and found the reviewer was just as perplexed as me: “In the last six months or so all of the major players in TV-based streaming — Roku, Amazon, Google and Apple — debuted brand-new gadgets. They also continue to sell older ones. The result is a cornucopia of choices overwhelming enough to give even the most gluttonous binge viewer indigestion”

Which brings me full circle. With the horde of streaming devices stocked before me, I chose the model closest to me: a Roku. I hadn’t any allegiance to a brand. I just wanted functionality and access to all the usual apps. Something all these devices could do.

Take note: one of these companies could seize market share by owning an identity within the category. And simplifying the category. Now, it’s a lot of players built on some pre-existing identities. That alone isn’t enough.

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