August 27, 2015 Last Updated 2:07 pm

Apple seen falling behind in the streaming TV race, reports says

There is probably a good reason why Apple is having such a difficult time securing content contracts with the broadcasters: the Cupertino tech giant has fallen behind its rivals when it comes to consumers using its Apple TV.

Apple has always said the Apple TV was merely “a hobby” and its failure to update the device – its last revision was released January of 2013 – actually has provided broadcasters with the evidence necessary to no longer dismiss the claim as mere misdirection. But rumors are that Apple will finally update the Apple TV at its September 9 event. But word is that the new model will not support 4K streaming, meaning that even though customers have had to wait over 20 months for an update, the device will be seen as lagging behind.

One could argue that 4K is still in its infancy, and certainly there remains a lack of 4K content being distributed, but a trip to Best Buy or any other TV merchant tells a different story.

More important, though, is the fact that Apple’s next generation of iPhones are said to be capable of recording 4K video. If this is true, and the rumor that the next version of the Apple TV won’t stream 4K… well, someone needs to lose their job over this, right? The two rumors are in conflict and could easily be dismissed were in not also true that Apple now regularly leaks its product information prior to events in order to dampen speculation concerning new products or features that they cannot introduce at the event. It leads to a lack of surprises and real news coming out of the events, but also prevents stories about how the event proved a disappointment. (These leaks also keep tech reporters in line and part of the Apple team.)

Parks-Associates--2014-US-Streaming-Media-Device-SalesNow a report from Park Associates, released last week, shows the Apple TV falling behind its competitors with consumers in terms of both sales and usage.

“Roku continues to lead streaming media device sales in the U.S. with 34% of units sold in 2014. Google is second with 23%, and new entrant Amazon overtook Apple for third place,” said Barbara Kraus, Director of Research, Parks Associates.

“Device shipments and sales receipts are important performance measures, but an equally critical metric for device makers is ongoing usage,” said Kraus. “Usage will drive alternate revenue streams such as content sales and advertising. Roku devices are the most used among U.S. broadband households that own a streaming media device at 37%, followed by Google Chromecast at 19%, Apple TV at 17%, and Amazon Fire TV devices at 14%.”

I found the study hitting on something important, usage stats are showing Apple competitors not only able to get consumers to buy their devices, but increasingly use them. With devices priced within the reach of anyone already paying for TV services, they can easily be purchases. But will they be used?

Roku3-330My own experience supports this, I’ve owned an Apple TV ever since it went to its hockey puck design, purchasing a second and finally a third device back in January of 2013. Today the device is a dog compared to my newer Roku – and while I began using the Roku more almost immediately, other members of the family delayed a while. But now the Apple TV is used about half as often as the Roku. One reason is the remote, of course. Roku’s remote is far superior. The other advantage Roku has is that its service is being built into other devices such as Sharp and Insignia TV sets. Roku has also built an app store, while rumors that have been out there for years that Apple would launch one have proved not true.

Of course, Apple would smartly assume that content will win out, if they can get the networks to sign on and create a low priced service that works on the Apple TV they will attract a lot of consumers wishing to finally say good-bye to Comcast and Time Warner. Who wouldn’t rejoice the day they no longer pay Comcast?

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