This year, in the vein of other "character-based" marketing drives, Roku is introducing Moxkat, "an upbeat Ukrainian fellow with a foolproof plan for holiday shoppers to buy themselves a Roku player and say it's from him." Self-gifting is the theme around this campaign--Roku said that a recent survey it conducted found that men who "self-gift" are much more likely than women to do so. Or they'll say it's from someone else--hence the advent of Moxkat, their perfect excuse.
Roku is also touting its superiority to main competitor Apple TV, the New York Post reports. Roku is pointing out its competitive price ($49 to $99 for its units) and its more than 1,000 channels. Roku is also pitching TV networks to get more to sign on to its service, according to the Post.
Roku also will likely fire up its Holiday Channel again this year, which combines holiday-themed content, such as animated shorts, holiday decorating and baking tips, from various channels.
Rumors are spinning up that Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) $99 streaming device will be available through "certain retailers" for $75 on Black Friday, according to the Post. But the only confirmed promotion that Apple is offering is free shipping of the device if it's purchased through the Apple Online Store during its one-day sale this Friday.
The search engine giant on Tuesday launched a holiday promotion during which customers who purchase its $35 Chromecast dongle get free shipping, along with a credit toward an HD movie rental from its Google Play service.
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) also announced this week that Chromecast users can now stream HBO GO. Of course, they'll need a subscription to HBO to use the service, but it's likely to be a welcome addition to the device, which supports just a few streaming services so far including Netflix, YouTube, Pandora and Hulu Plus.
Microsoft's Xbox One
Our online video equipment list wouldn't be complete without adding the biggest products to drop this holiday season, namely new gaming consoles from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Sony. Although the Xbox and PlayStation launched as gaming devices, they also act as streaming video boxes for a large and growing number of users.
And while online video likely isn't the primary reason consumers are plunking down $499 for Microsoft's latest game system, the Xbox One does the job well according to early reviews. Native apps work within the Windows 8 interface and you'll see games and apps like Netflix together. Additionally, the console features a Live TV pass-through that works with participating cable providers so that the console acts as an alternate (or primary) STB. And in a nod to the growth of the second-screen world, users can pair their smart device with the Xbox One via Smartglass 2.0.
The console's release is a marketing promotion unto itself, but a few additional gimmicks are in the offing. For example, McDonald's is giving away the game system as part of an instant-win promotion beginning Dec. 3.
The Xbox One supports the major streaming apps including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Redbox Instant, Crackle, Vudu and Twitch. But it also boasts a larger number of unique streaming apps the PS4 doesn't (yet) have, including ESPN, FX Now, Target Ticket, NFL on Xbox One, Univision Deportes, and Verizon FiOS TV.
Sony's PlayStation 4
Sony's long-awaited console finally hit shelves Nov. 16. In September it held a pre-launch promotion with Taco Bell, giving away one of its consoles (along with a game and a year subscription to PS Plus) every 15 minutes over a six-week period from Sept. 24 to Nov. 10. Reviewers love the console, but hate the scarcity and quality of the games currently available. Still, it's clear that online video got plenty of consideration in the design.
"The PS4 still feels decidedly like a video game console, and in this regard it feels incredible," said Yannick LeJacq of NBC News in a review. "There's a number of entertainment-focused apps for the new device that all perform as well as they need to, but Sony clearly set out to make a high-end gaming machine that was open to activities like Netflix binges and music streaming, not setting out to take over your living room, like Microsoft."
Co-promotions are part of Sony's drive to sell as many PlayStation units as possible. For example, Amazon is betting on PS4 excitement to propel sales in its newly opened PlayStation Network Store, offering a $5 PSN credit to consumers who purchase selected PlayStation titles, according to kotaku.com.
Similar to the PS3, the PS4 supports several streaming apps including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Redbox Instant, Crackle, Vudu, Twitch, EPIX, NBA Game Time, NHL Game Center Live, YuppTV, and Music and Video Unlimited.