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Week In Review: Amazon Will Make More Smart TVs, Roku Will Make More Original Programming

1. Amazon Will Make More Smart TVs

It’s now official. 

Amazon is going to be rolling out Amazon branded TVs that use the Fire TV operating system as their native interface. This new batch features two model series, the lower priced 4-Series ($370-$520) and the slightly higher priced Omni ($400-$560), which also features 65 inch and 75 inch models priced at $830 and $1100, respectively.

While Amazon has not indicated which third party manufacturer they are working with on these, Arstechnica points out that TCL coincidentally also has a line of TVs called the 4-Series, so you do the math.

Why It Matters

Smart TVs are having a moment. 

This is the subject of a new TVREV Special Report we released this week on the Emerging Smart TV Ecosystem, and it’s clearly not just our imagination.

Amazon has likely been looking at the massive success Roku has had with TCL TVs with the Roku operating system built in and wondered why they didn’t think of that first. 

Given their vast resources, it’s surprising Amazon didn’t jump on this sooner or just buy one of the smaller OEMs, but these sets, which will be out in time for the holiday shopping season, are a big step forward for Amazon.

As to why smart TVs are having a moment, there are several key factors: the OEMs have all vastly improved their overall user experiences and interfaces. They’ve also launched their own FASTs, with over 100 linear-like channels, their own ad inventory off those FAST channels and their own ACR-based measurement standards to provide comprehensive cross platform data for companies advertising on those FASTs.

The first of those reasons—improved interfaces, is why dongles are now going the way of the dinosaur.

Dongles (and hockey pucks) were useful in the old days when you could not update or add apps to the smart TV interfaces. Now that you can do this with ease, there’s really no reason to have an external device.

Which is why Amazon is getting into the TV game and why Google is likely to follow suit.

Here’s the catch though: Americans replace their TVs every seven years or so. And the truth is there have not been any real breakthroughs on the order to HD to shake people out of that cycle.  Meaning the number of people with those Amazon-branded TVs is likely to remain in the five or six digit realm for a few years.

On the other hand, the rest of the world does not have the sort of streaming TV market the US has, and so there’s plenty of room for Amazon to expand there and to rack up the sort of seven-digit audiences that would really matter.

One final note: It’s unclear who is making Amazon’s new Omni TVs (Amazon’s not saying) and, assuming the 4-Series is indeed from TCL, whether Amazon’s displacing Roku or whether the new Amazon TVs are additive. We’ll know soon enough.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re Amazon, congratulations. Now you need to give people a reason to buy the TV. Yes it works with Alexa, but so do a lot of other TVs and there’s no clear market positioning—it’s not super cheap, it’s not high end, and let’s face it, consumers don’t immediately associate Amazon with “high quality electronics.”

If you’re Roku, probably not any real reason to worry—a rising tide lifts all boats and all that, plus your interface is very unique. That’s assuming TCL didn’t drop you for Amazon to close this deal. If that’s the case, then worrying is certainly called for.

If you’re in the media business, and you don’t want to get left behind, you can download our special report on the Emerging Smart TV Ecosystem here

2. Roku Will Make More Original Programming

Roku, which bought out the remains of the Quibi catalog a few months back, announced that it was buying the rights to the NBC cult hit Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, and, in addition to running prior seasons on The Roku Channel in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, would also be producing a Christmas special movie to be called, unsurprisingly, Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas.  

Why It Matters

It was only a matter of time until the FASTs started producing their own original programming as a way to differentiate themselves.

Tubi has taken the lead here along with IMDbTV, which is not all that surprising given that (a) Tubi’s parent company Fox, has no other streaming presence and (b) IMVbTV’s parent company, Amazon, has more money than it knows what to do with.

Roku is being smart here, because unlike rivals like Pluto, Xumo and Tubi, they have no unique library of network reruns they can use to lure in fans. But taking a series like Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, with a solid fan base (but not solid enough to keep it from being cancelled by NBC) and giving it new life, is a smart move, a way to draw in viewers who might not otherwise have given The Roku Channel a second look.

It’s a tactic used by none other than Netflix, which recently picked up Manifest, another recently cancelled NBC series with a solid fan base.

Original content on the FASTs is something we can expect to see more and more of in the years to come, perhaps not full length movies, but lower production cost series like game shows, talk shows and reality programming. 

Just a little somethin-somethin to help them stand out.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re a FAST or a Flix, there’s a lot to be said for keeping a series with a strong fan base alive for another season or two. You get to endear yourself to the aforementioned fans, you get a decent amount of press and you have something your competition does not.

If you’re a FAST with less money for production, don’t ignore the appeal the game shows and talk shows. The right ones are fairly evergreen too, so you can run them for years to come.

If you’re a viewer, rejoice. There’s going to be even more for you to watch, and if someone cancels your favorite show, there’s now a good chance there’s going to be someone else to pick it up.