Mom, you're gettin' a Roku ... and Timmy, you're gettin' a Chromecast

Samantha Bookman, FierceOnlineVideo

I rarely buy electronics for family members. Older relatives aren't always enchanted by the latest smartphone or tablet, and younger folks either already have it--they trend as early adopters--or have specific technology preferences. But this year, I'm comfortable buying at least one consumer device for some of my immediate family: a streaming stick.

My decision was pretty simple to make: Streaming sticks are an inexpensive gift, priced between $35 and $50. If recipients don't like them, I won't feel put out by it. And they're a great way to introduce family members who've never tried online streaming to the magic of SVOD.

In FierceOnlineVideo's latest feature, I take a look at the three top streaming sticks, and consider how well each will sell this holiday season. Roku and Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Chromecast are clear competitors for the top spot, but my third choice, Amazon's (NASDAQ: AMZN) new Fire TV Stick, will have an interesting holiday ride. After all, it's been out of stock since early November.

But one factor I didn't consider in my ranking is how streaming sticks will fare among different age groups.

When I visit family for Thanksgiving or Christmas I often end up doing informal surveys about their online video adoption and usage. Spontaneous surveys are an occupational hazard when covering an industry segment as dynamic as OTT, but my family seems to tolerate them well. I'm sure that flying gravy boat at Thanksgiving was a completely unintentional slip on the part of my sister-in-law.

This year I saw in action, firsthand, many of the trends analysts have documented over the past few months. Here are a few:

  • My youngest brother, the family's first cord cutter, admitted he's resubscribed to a pay-TV package. Triple-play was a better deal than broadband.
  • SVOD was a sanity saver for other family members, who put on Netflix Kids for their younger children as soon as they entered the house.
  • Teenage and young-adult family spent time between dinner and dessert viewing video on their smartphones, and sharing video with each other via social media like Facebook.
  • Older relatives have access to streaming, mostly through their Blu-ray players, but they don't take advantage of the streaming option.

That older demographic could benefit the most from buying a streaming stick (or having a thoughtful relative buy it and set it up for them). And that's one reason why I think sales of sticks will be significant this holiday season. They're an affordable entry point for those who haven't yet been introduced to all that's out there in the OTT world. The Roku in particular is easy to set up.

For younger consumers, they're an affordable way to carry their entertainment world with them to college and beyond--especially with Chromecast, which allows them to shift viewing from their laptop to a larger screen with ease.

Take a look at our latest feature on holiday sales of streaming sticks. And sound off in the comments about which stick you think will perform best, and why.--Sam

Don't miss FierceCable's "Roadmap to 4K Readiness" breakfast panel at CES, featuring top-level executives from Comcast and Samsung. Register today right here.