Media Players: A One-trick Pony?24 May, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Conduit devices linking the Web with TV face competition from Blu-ray Disc players and video game consoles
Proliferation of Internet-connected media players delivering entertainment to the television has reached a crossroad with one “old-school” competitor — the Blu-ray Disc player — more than able to hold its own, according to a new report.
The “over-the-top” set-top box or digital media player market includes products such as Apple TV, Roku, Boxee Box, Western Digital’s WD TV Live and Seagate’s GoFlex TV, among others.
Worldwide streaming media player unit shipments are projected to increase in 2011, finishing the year at just over 3.6 million units, according to Scottsdale, Ariz.-based In-Stat. Yet, the steady two-year growth now is threatened as Blu-ray players and video game consoles increasingly offer identical functionality in addition to packaged media and gaming.
“There are some significant challenges facing the market for streaming media players,” said Mike Paxton, research director with In-Stat. “Foremost among them is how to competitively position streaming media players against other products, such as connected Blu-ray players and video game consoles, that are more common in both consumer households and in retail electronics stores.”
Indeed, many Profile 2.0 Blu-ray players and game systems (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) now come bundled with apps for Netflix streaming, Blockbuster On Demand, Amazon Instant Video and Vudu.
The report notes that the ability to stream IP video is rapidly becoming a common consumer electronics product feature — notably among Internet-connected TVs — rather than the central function of a device. This is driving some streaming media player vendors to de-emphasize their standalone products and focus future product development efforts on their streaming media software platform.
Players such as Roku — which helped launch the streaming market with its Netflix-enabled player in 2008 — now tout more than 100 content channels, including Amazon Instant Video, MLB.tv, Hulu Plus, Crackle, UFC, CNET and Netflix, among others.
Indeed, a quick perusal of Roku.com features a prominent rotating ad for repurposed episodes of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart.
In-Stat, which is owned by The NPD Group, said that despite the challenges surrounding the market, the worldwide installed base of streaming media players will surpass 15 million by 2015. North America remains the largest market for streaming media players, accounting for 82% of global product unit shipments in 2010.