Amazon, Apple want a piece of the TV set top box

A Roku streaming player.

You’ve heard of Roku - the little box you attach to your television to stream TV shows, movies and music. There’s also Apple's TV, its set-top box. And the word is Amazon is going to release one any day too.  

Why? Well, if you want to watch Amazon Prime’s streaming videos you can go to their website or download an app. But for most people, there’s no straightforward way to get Amazon Prime onto your TV. Kevin Klowden, an economist with the Milken Institute, says that’s a problem.

"The best screen that somebody’s going to have in their home is the TV screen," he says. 

And Amazon wants to be on that screen. The set-top box gives it direct access and once it’s there, it can sell you other goods too. Word is Google is also going to introduce a set-top box and they might start selling video games. 

For years, the tech industry’s talked about the impending fall of the TV. And so the set-top box, well, it seems sort of old-fashioned. But Susan Etlinger, an analyst at Altimeter group, says most of America hasn’t got the memo.

"People are kind of stubborn, we love our TVs," she  says.  

Etlinger says that while cable companies know what you like to watch on TV, tech companies are running blind. And so the new mantra is, if you can’t beat it, join it to a set-top box.

About the author

Queena Kim covers technology for Marketplace. She lives in the Bay Area.

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