What’s more valuable in the streaming services market, the hardware used to stream it or the content that gets streamed? It might seem like the answer is easy. Hardware like Roku devices, smart televisions, and Amazon Fire Sticks are occasional purchases, whereas convincing people to adopt streaming content produces valuable, consistent, revenue-generating audiences. But in reality, it might be the wrong question. The actual answer might be that both are necessary to achieve true value. When a consumer chooses a particular brand of smart TV, such as one developed and sold by a cable company like Comcast rather than one from a traditional manufacturer, it grants the company new access to influence that person’s viewing habits. For example, when Roku got into a spat with channels such as HBO Max and YouTube TV, people watching through its devices saw fewer advertisements and prompts for shows created by those channels. Once the spat was resolved, Rokus went back to putting this content in front of more people watching. Users of a Fire Stick, perhaps unsurprisingly, tend to encounter Amazon-produced content first and foremost. Therefore, if Comcast can use its own branded televisions to get people to adopt its Peacock streaming channel, it can enjoy both a new revenue source from selling products and expanded adoption of its service, which provides it with regular subscription fees. For consumers, these battles imply a potentially troubling state though. We think we have nearly unlimited choice when it comes to what to stream through our smart devices. But are those very devices essentially making our choices for us, by subtly showing us only what they want us to watch?
Source: Shira Ovide, “Why the Cable Company Is Selling TVs,” The New York Times, October 21, 2021