Google, Roku stand to rake in holiday streaming stick sales

Streaming sticks will be one of the hottest stocking stuffers this holiday season, if new data from Parks Associates is any indication.

Thanks to their lower price point, sales of streaming sticks by Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Roku as gifts could take a bigger chunk of sales than other streaming devices, the research firm says in its latest report, "2014 Holiday Purchase Intentions." So far in 2014, 25 percent of dedicated streaming media devices sold were intended as gifts, and 20 percent of gaming consoles have been gifts as well. Those numbers are likely to go higher as Christmas season sales ramp up.

"In 2013, 46% of Google Chromecasts and 37% of streaming media players, such as the Roku 3 and Apple TV (NASDAQ: AAPL), were purchased as gifts. The two new streaming sticks this year--the Roku HDMI Streaming Stick and the Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) Fire TV Stick--have similar functionality as the regular streaming players at a much lower price point," said Barbara Kraus, director of research at Parks.

Streaming sticks have more going for them than just their price. A majority of younger Americans prefer streaming VOD rather than linear TV, although many enjoy the lean-back experience of a television, according to Glenn Hower, research analyst at Parks. "The experience of watching on the big screen is still a key part of the video-viewing event, and purchasing a streaming device is simply an easier process than the research and price comparison involved with flat-panel TV purchases," he said.

That may be welcome news for manufacturers and vendors of streaming sticks. Parks said earlier this year that sales of Google's Chromecast device had flattened out. And the number of competitors entering the streaming device market keeps increasing; Sony introduced its PlayStation TV device in August, matching Amazon Fire TV's price of $99. MobiTV, meanwhile, partnered with Brightstar to distribute its MobiTV Connect HDMI stick. And even Walmart is getting in on the action, with plans to introduce the Vudu Spark streaming stick sometime in the near future, according to Gigaom.

Sadly for Amazon, the online retailer won't be getting in on the streaming stick bonanza this season: Its Fire TV Stick won't ship until mid-January, Kraus noted.

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