LOS ANGELES — Who’s winning the streaming media box war?
Roku, by a hair. But Google and Amazon are close, while Apple is way behind, according to a new report from researcher eMarketer.
If you want to watch Netflix, YouTube, Hulu or other brands on your TV, you have two options — buy one of the so-called “smart” TVs, which have a certain number of channels accessible on the menu, or buy an accessory device to plug into the TV and home WiFi.
The smart TV is the easiest option, but not everybody wants to go out and buy a new TV to make it happen. Compounding matters, brands usually give you just a handful of channel options, whereas the streaming boxes offer more while adding to the lineup.
eMarketer just did a study of the field, and found Roku, Google and Amazon are the most popular streaming options.
Roku has 23% of the market or 38.9 million people will watch Internet entertainment on its platform this year — followed closely by Google (22%, 36.9 million) and Amazon (21.3%, 35.8 million). Apple TV has 12%, or 21.3 million.
Roku, Google and Amazon lead the pack because of cost You can buy a starter Roku express stick for $29.99, and work your way up to $129.99 for the top-of-the-line Ultra product, which streams in 4K and has a fancy remote.
(Roku, by the way, is reportedly planning an IPO by the end of the year that could raise up to $1 billion.)
Google’s Chromecast streaming stick sells for $35, but it’s not as easy to use as Roku, which uses a channel-based TV menu that we’re accustomed to. For Chromecast, you find something you want to watch on your phone, then point your phone to the TV.
Amazon also has a low-cost entry level product, the Fire Stick, which sells for $39.99. It’s similar to Roku’s entry-level product in that it plugs into the back of the TV, to the HDMI port, and connects you to Internet programming.
Apple TV, which I own and love, is a premium-priced product, starting at $149, and going the up to $199. The interface is beautiful, you can use Siri to run the remote control and find programs, and it also plays your photos and videos from your phone and computer without lifting a finger. (Roku and Amazon also have voice controls.)
But eMarketer says Apple is hindered by not offering…