Google this week officially unveiled Google TV (a revamped Android TV) and a new Chromecast, which drew mixed reactions from industry analysts.
Google TV provides a unified platform including search and discovery across most streaming services and includes features like Watchlist, which lets users bookmark shows for later from their mobile device. For now, Google TV is only available on the new Chromecast but the company said that starting in 2021, Google TV will also be available on televisions from Sony and other Android TV OS partners.
The new Chromecast – which is competitively priced at $49.99 – finally comes with a voice remote that uses Google Assistant. The device is available now in the U.S. and up for pre-order in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the U.K., where it will be available for purchase on Oct. 15.
David Watkins, who heads up the Connected Home Devices team at Strategy Analytics, praised Google TV for better playing to Google’s strengths.
“The inclusion of a new Google TV UI layer as well as Google Assistant support will mean that Google will be in a much better position to leverage its core search capabilities. Search, navigation and curation are three key areas of potential differentiation for streaming media device brands and all the signs point towards Google having enough in its arsenal to compete with the very best in this space,” he said.
Emily Groch, Comperemedia’s director of insights for telecommunications, said Google TV and the new Chromecast succeed in simplifying access, recommendations and search for a wide universe of streaming services. She pointed toward Mintel’s consumer research that found in April 2019, 37% of SVOD users said they had three or more SVOD subscriptions—a percentage that jumped to 59% by May 2020. The percentage of consumers who subscribe to five or more services went from 8% to 19% over the same timeframe.
“With consumers subscribing to more streaming services than ever before, it’s getting trickier to navigate thousands of titles from multiple sources—they need platforms like Google TV to help them track, discover and curate,” said Groch. “Of course, the new Chromecast adds another layer of convenience for those already plugged into the Google ecosystem, since it will integrate with other Google smart home devices via the new Google Assistant-enabled voice remote.”
Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst at TV[R]EV, agreed that the device and platform will be especially appealing to consumers already tied into the Google ecosystem. However, he doubted that the new Chromecast will do much to wrest control of the connected TV device market from Amazon and Roku.
“There’s nothing groundbreaking about the device, nothing that would cause someone who currently owns a Roku or Fire TV to rush out and spend $50 to replace it. For someone new to the streaming space, there’s no real reason to spend $50 on Google when you can spend $30 on Roku or Amazon and get something that’s very similar and, in the case of Roku, has an arguably superior interface,” said Wolk, adding that improved smart TV platforms from Samsung and Vizio are increasingly diminishing the need for external third-party connected devices.
“[Google] should have rolled this out years ago. By now, it’s probably too late.”