Deeper Dive—Where Amazon Fire TV OS sits in the smart TV conversation

In all, Amazon has launched 20 Fire TV model sets since June 2018. (Amazon)

Amazon Fire TV is leading its competitors in terms of active users. But, the company’s operating system doesn’t often seem to factor much into the smart TV conversation.

Fire TV, at last count in May, has more than 34 million active users. Its close competitor Roku reported 29 million active accounts around the same time. But, Roku also estimated that one of every three smart TVs sold last quarter were Roku TVs, a figure that moved Roku past Samsung and made it the top smart TV operating system in the U.S.

A look at the international market for smart TVs shows lots of companies ahead of Fire TV. Strategy Analytics said worldwide sales of smart TVs reached 157 million units in 2018, and that the market was dominated by Samsung’s Tizen OS, followed by LG’s WebOS, Google’s Android TV, Roku TV and FireFox OS. The report said Fire TV OS snagged a 0.1% share of the total market.

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Amazon first announced Fire TV OS at CES in 2017, along with a trio of 4K set partnerships with Seiki, Westinghouse and Element. The following year, Fire TV OS was a no-show at CES. But, in April 2018 Amazon announced that it was teaming up with Best Buy to start selling 10 different 4K and HD Fire TV Edition models from Insignia and Toshiba in Best Buy stores across the U.S. and Canada.

In September 2018, three more Fire TV edition smart TVs from Insignia and Toshiba rolled out and this week the company announced a new Toshiba 4K set that supports Dolby Vision. In all Amazon has launched 20 Fire TV model sets since June 2018, but the company has been fairly methodical about its smart TV program rollout. Compare that to Roku TV, which is now available in TVs from nine different manufacturers: Element, Hisense, Hitachi, JVC, Magnavox, Philips, RCA, Sharp and TCL.

Roku clearly has a substantial lead in terms of smart TV manufacturer partnerships. But the question is, does it matter to Amazon when Fire TV has the overall lead and the end goal, regardless of device, is to get consumers onto the platform?

Amazon said that monthly active users on and sales of Fire TV Edition smart TVs have increased every month in 2019. So, the program is growing and Amazon will likely add more partners later this year. That will give Fire TV user growth another boost.

Matt Clark, director of business development at Fire TV, expects that Fire TV’s more than 34 million active user total will go up as the company’s smart TV edition program expands.

“We’re right now in Toshiba and Insignia and seeing very strong performance there and, more importantly, great customer satisfaction,” said Clark, who added that he’s confident we’ll see more new partnerships later this year.

For now, Fire TV OS is still trying to poke its head into the smart TV conversation as Roku TV grows its partnerships and big OEMs like Samsung, LG and Vizio remain entrenched with their proprietary platforms. But, it’s unreasonable to think that Fire TV OS will always be on the outside looking in.

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