Google’s Chromecast HDMI dongles have surged ahead of Apple’s net tops in the OTT streaming market, rising to 35% of the total 2015 market for digital media streamers, up from 28% in 2014. The figures, from research firm Strategy Analytics, show that Apple was in second place, with 20% of the market, down from 22% in 2014.
In joint-third place were Amazon and Roku, both on 15%, leaving 15% for the rest of the players to duke it out for. Cumulatively, some 42 million streaming devices were sold in 2015. Apple has sold about 10 million more Apple TVs than Google has shifted Chromecasts, with 37 million sold since the 2007 launch.
However, Chromecast’s 27 million sales in 2.5 years is on track to surge past Apple, likely within the next year and almost certainly within the next two. Cord cutting is freeing up TVs to low-cost OTT streaming devices like Chromecast, and as the refresh cycle continues, the TVs replaced by newer ones are prime candidates for Chromecast adoption.
Unsurprisingly, the $35 price tag is cited as the main reason for the device’s lead, and considering that it is about one-fifth the price of the entry-level Apple TV, it will always be a very disruptive product at this price point. While Chromecast lacks the remote control and voice-search that the Apple TV and its rivals provide, the disruptive price point is the deciding factor for most consumers. and Roku has shifted some 20 million units ever, and Amazon’s Fire line has made good progress since its 2014 launch – shifting around 10 million units.
As a proportion of all the connected TVs in the wild, these OTT streamers comprised 19% of the total amount of connected televisions. Around 220 million connected TVs were sold last year, which includes the smart TVs, but also the peripheral streaming devices mentioned above, as well as games consoles, DVRs, and Blu-ray players.
Smart TVs accounted for about 54% of the total, 120 million units or so, but that internet connectivity is increasingly becoming a standard feature on TVs, even at the cheaper end of the market. The figures show that Samsung, LG and Sony hold half the market, but that Chinese brands TCL and Hisense have the strongest annual growth in shipments. Based on that finding, it looks like the Chinese will have seized half the market by this time next year.
In developed markets, there aren’t many pay TV homes that don’t already have an OTT streaming option in them – whether it’s a Chromecast that everyone can cast content to, a dedicated net top like the Apple TV or Roku, or an old games console that was deprecated at Christmas.
Consequently, the pay TV incumbents will be reading the Strategy Analytics findings through gritted teeth. Cord cutting is no longer an outside possibility – it’s a looming threat that has penetrated nearly every one of their customer homes. OTT is so disruptive and dangerous, because it enables a customer to jump ship from the ecosystem that has been almost exclusive these past few decades. Pay TV is no longer the only bar in town, and as an industry, it is acutely aware of this fact.
But pay TV as an industry has adapted to make its valuable content libraries available on OTT platforms, and in the meantime, can find a little solace in the fact that the Chromecast hasn’t established itself as a pay TV killer.
The day a $35 device can offer the same breadth of content as the pay TV environment, cord cutting will become truly epidemic.