Watching TV broadcasts on a television set? What will they think of next? Well, facetiousness aside, this may be one of the easiest and cheapest ways for people in markets served by Aereo — who don’t want to attach an antenna to their TVs — to access local TV broadcasts. It’s a meaningful development for Aereo: Google’s $35 Chromecast streaming devices have been a hit with consumers. They use smartphones or tablets to remotely control the thumb-sized unit that plugs into a TV set’s HDMI port, and picks up streaming video via WiFi. Beginning May 29, Aereo customers who use Chromecast can download or update their Aereo app, and they’ll be ready to go. “Consumers deserve more options and alternatives in how they watch television and our team is committed to providing consumers with the best experience possible using Aereo’s innovative cloud technology,” says CEO Chet Kanojia. His service will be ready for Chromecast at the same time U.S. Supreme Court justices will be deliberating whether Aereo is legal. Major broadcasters have asked the high court to rule that the service infringes on their copyrights; Aereo streams their over-the-air programming in their local markets, but doesn’t pay. The company says that it simply leases subscribers an antenna similar to what they could install at home to watch free TV.
The content choices just became more interesting for Google’s hot-selling $35 thumb-drive-sized dongle that brings Web content to TV sets. HBO GO pretty much had to make itself available on Chromecast: Users already can watch Netflix and Hulu Plus. The change means that HBO subscribers who have WiFi and Chromecast can watch shows on demand on TV sets that aren’t connected to a cable or satellite box. “Google’s Chromecast is one of the newest, more exciting devices in the marketplace today, so we are very happy to bring this capability to our subscribers,” says HBO’s Chief Technology Officer Otto Berkes. Google hasn’t released sales figures for Chromecast, but it’s Amazon’s top selling electronics device and ranks No. 2 among televisions and video products, and streaming media players.
The device, code-named “Cinnamon,” would make it easy for users to stream Amazon Prime videos to their TV sets — and could handle apps and content including music and games from other Web services — the Wall Street Journal says citing “people briefed on the company’s plans.” Indeed, Amazon has given potential allies including cable television programmers a mid-October deadline to come up with apps. The goal is to have it ready to sell for the holidays. So it’s a go? Maybe. Amazon’s box also might be “shelved or delayed due to financial, performance or other considerations,” the paper says. It also doesn’t know how much it will cost and whether Amazon will have a separate remote control, or enable buyers to control if from their tablets and smartphones. Google’s $35 Chromecast streaming media player is Amazon’s top selling electronics device. This week it began to stream Hulu Plus in addition to Netflix and YouTube videos. “Increasing the penetration of streaming video devices with incredibly easy interfaces will reduce time spent with linear, multichannel television,” BTIG’s Richard Greenfield observed this week.
About 14% of all households have a streaming media device, twice the number that had one two years ago, research firm Parks Associates says today. But the most interesting finding in its new report on trends in connected TV is that relatively tiny Roku handily beats the mighty Apple among people who own a streaming video media device. Some 37% go with Roku vs 24% who “primarily use” Apple TV, the company found in a survey of 10,000 U.S. broadband households early this year. The company expects worldwide sales of 330M connected TV devices — including smart TVs, gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, and streaming video media devices — in 2017, twice the number it says likely will be sold this year. Even though more TV sets will include Internet connectivity, Parks’ Barbara Kraus says that people will still buy separate devices including ones from Roku, Apple TV, and Google’s $35 Chromecast because they “offer innovations such as streaming video at low prices.” But with the average price for these devices likely to plummet, manufacturers and service providers will have to pick up the slack with “new and recurring revenue streams in advertising and content placement.”
Google clearly caught the public’s imagination on Wednesday when it introduced Chromecast – the $35 dongle that can turn any TV with an HDMI port, and access to Wi-Fi, into a smart TV. Plug it in, and you can access YouTube, Netflix and other media, including music and photos from your computer, phone, or tablet. The device is already sold out on Google Play, Amazon, and Best Buy. (You can find it for about $45 on eBay, though.) And Google has exhausted its allotment of promotions that gave early Chromecast buyers three months of Netflix for free. So is Google’s new product worth all this excitement? Several critics who have tried it say that it is — but mostly because its cheaper than alternatives such as Apple TV and Roku. It “works as advertised, and it makes me feel like I’m a little further into the future,” The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal says. ”For $35, that’s a good deal.” Wired’s Mat Honan says that images don’t show that Chromecast needs to draw power from either a USB port or an outlet. Still, he’s “pretty blown away by how easy, versatile, and inexpensive this is. Given the low, low price … it’s really hard not to like.”