Fire TV Tops Roku as Amazon Seeks to Co-Exist With Streaming Competitors

Photo Credit: Todd Williamson/JanuaryImages/Shutterstock
May 15, 2019

By Michelle Castillo

Amazon Fire TV now has 34 million monthly active users who watch streaming content using its devices.

It’s a rapid rise for Amazon’s ($AMZN) streaming media devices. One of its top rivals, Roku ($ROKU), reported it had 29.1 million users during its latest earnings report.

With Fire TV rumored to be adding more free ad-supported content, the company is encroaching on Roku’s dominance in the ad-supported streaming space. It’s also partnering with Amazon Prime Video competitors like YouTube ($GOOGL) and Disney+ ($DIS) to bring their content to TVs using its devices, while bolstering its user interface with Alexa voice controls and other updates.

Cheddar caught up with Amazon Fire TV general manager and global head of marketing, growth, and engagement Jennifer Prenner to chat more about how Fire TV is growing in the midst of increased competition.

(This interview has been edited for clarity.)

YouTube joined Fire TV, and Amazon Prime Video is on Chromecast. You guys are competitors but found a way to co-exist.

The partners/competitors are all starting to come together in this space. We worked hard with Google to find a solution that was right to evolve. We have recently announced we’re getting Disney+ and Apple TV+. More and more providers want to come. It’s partially because we have a really great line. It’s partially that customers love it so much that 34 million of them consume content on our device. You want to be where they are consuming.

IMDB Freedive is free ad-supported content. For a while, we went through this phase where everything was pay a la carte or subscription. Now we’re back to the ad-supported model, which is back to the traditional TV model. Why are we seeing the shift?

You’ll always have a need for both. You’ll have customers who will want to pay so they don’t have ads. You’ll have customers who are fine with ads, so they’re comfortable getting free content for it. The ad-supported content has continued to rise with Crackle and Tubi and Pluto. IMDB Freedive is just our entrance into that.

What we have found with Fire TV is more than 40 percent of our active customers want to consume in some way some free content. Often that can be in a lean-back experience. Maybe they just want to turn the TV on and have something playing. Free ad-supported content is a great option for stuff like that. We want to give customers choice. If they want to subscribe to Prime Video or Netflix ($NFLX), that’s great. If they wanted to watch Crackle or Freedive, that’s fine too.

There’s been rumors that you’re expanding more into that free ad-supported content space. There’s been reports about the news app. Do you have any comments at this time?

I can’t comment on our future roadmap. I will say we do continue to look at options. We look at customer feedback. If customers are asking for something, it’s likely we’re going to look into it and see if it’s something we’re going to pursue.

Which company is the Fire TV’s biggest competitor right now?

That’s hard. There’s so many. Everything from streaming media players like Roku, Google, and Apple to smart TVs and embedded smart TVs to even cable operators. Cable operators are trying to alter their business model by putting things like Prime Video and Netflix.

Customers want what they want, and you have to give it to them. Where you’ll start differentiating between what services (you can offer), how your user interface works, features, and cost. Customers want something that matches what their budget is to spend on their entertainment experience.