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Why Are So Many Companies Now Making TVs and Streaming Boxes?

Aubrey Meister

With streaming on the rise, consumers are cutting the cord and shopping for devices that are compatible with services like Netflix and HBO Max. Until recently, the selection was fairly limited with smart TVs available only from well-known TV brands, including LG, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio.

Now, more TVs and streaming boxes are hitting the shelves, giving consumers more choice when switching to streaming. Companies that didn’t previously manufacture this type of equipment are announcing their plans for smart TVs and streaming boxes. Earlier this month, Amazon unveiled its smart TVs, which will launch in October. This week, Comcast announced a new 4K global streaming device, XiOne, and smart TVs are in the works as well. Anker has also launched an Android TV dongle.

Amazon is attempting to compete with big smart TV brands, and by offering Alexa integration, the company is differentiating itself. Andy Jassy, Amazon’s new CEO, has shared some of the TV's features, including TikTok integration. Amazon is the first to do this with Fire TV.

Other companies, like Comcast, appear to be trying to retain customers who have decided to cut the cord. By offering XiOne, Comcast can keep its traditional pay-TV subscribers around. Otherwise, customers would simply disappear and go elsewhere for streaming equipment. Eventually, with the shift toward streaming, Comcast would lose much of its customer base.

In addition to the XiOne, Comcast is reportedly planning to launch XClass-branded smart TVs. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts is paying attention to consumers’ TV usage as he strategizes for the future of the company. At a Goldman Sachs conference in 2020, Roberts said, “We’re looking at smart TVs on a global basis, and we’re wondering: Can we bring our tech stack, or certain capabilities in aggregation, to consumers who are relying more and more on smart TVs?”

Even Walmart is entering the game with its Onn-branded streaming devices.

So why are these companies wading into new waters? Data and advertising. There’s a ferocious battle for the domination of the “home screen” that viewers first see when turning on a big screen. Apps and services that get the front-and-center slots are more valuable. You can imagine a Comcast product might surface that company’s VOD rentals above its competitors. Or Comcast products might have nudges for users to download and sample Peacock (owned by Comcast).

Similarly, Amazon has an interest in spotlighting its own digital video rentals and Prime Video. But the company is also obsessed with obtaining voice data. Amazon’s Alexa, Echo, and Ring products record and capture data, which has led to a series of privacy concerns. Security advocates may suggest you might not want your TV or streaming box “listening” to you around the clock.

Devices that capture your data can resell your data to advertisers or other third parties. The trade-off in terms of convenience may be worth it to some users, but could be a dealbreaker for others.

Ultimately, tech and media companies are aware of the ever-evolving streaming space and are adapting. As more consumers begin streaming, they are going to be purchasing smart TVs and devices, so it only makes sense for more companies, like Amazon and Comcast, to get involved.

Recent studies have shown that more consumers are cutting the cord and switching to streaming services, which means they may need to buy new equipment, including smart TVs and streaming boxes. According to a recent Hub Entertainment Research survey, only 10% of TV homes exclusively watch traditional TV. Many homes have switched to a hybrid setup between traditional TV and streaming, further proving that streaming is the future of home entertainment.

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