Roku still tops as sales of streaming-media players rise

Ten percent of US households with a broadband connection purchased a streaming-media device in the first nine months of this year, already matching last year's tally.

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The streaming-media market is shifting. Parks Associates

Streaming-media devices continue to grow in popularity amid swiftly shifting competition, according to a new report.

During the first three quarters of 2014, 10 percent of US households with a broadband connection bought at least one streaming-media player, market researcher Parks Associates said Tuesday. The players include set-top boxes and sticks, which plug into HDMI ports, that access scores of channels and services, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant Video.

Roku's lineup of set-top boxes and streaming sticks was still the most popular so far this year despite a strong dip, securing 29 percent of sales in the first nine months. Google's Chromecast stick leaped onto the scene, snagging the No. 2 spot with 20 percent share and stealing Apple TV's previous slot. The Apple TV box fell to third place with 17 percent share. Amazon's Fire TV box and stick, also new on the scene, came in fourth place with 10 percent share.

Streaming-media players have been hitting store shelves at a rapid clip in recent years. Apple jumped into the market in 2007 but last updated its box nearly two years ago. Roku launched its first box in mid-2008 and has continually updated its products, including releasing its stick in March. Google's Chromecast stick has been on the market since mid-2013. Amazon jumped into the market in April with its box and again last month with its Fire TV stick.

The rise in streaming devices is due in part to the change in how people watch TV, as well as their interest in accessing the Internet on their TV screens. Over the past decade or so, viewing habits have shifted dramatically, with people watching more shows they've recorded as opposed to when they first air. The industry dubs this type of viewing as "non-linear."

"Nearly 50 percent of video content that U.S. consumers watch on a TV set is non-linear, up from 38 percent in 2010, and it is already the majority for people 18-44," Barbara Kraus, director of research at Parks Associates, said in a statement.

The streaming-media player competition is changing rapidly too.

Roku, which has been the dominant force since 2012, saw its market share slip from 46 percent last year to 29 percent in the first nine months of 2014. Apple TV also slipped from 26 percent last year to 17 percent so far this year. They both lost share as Google's Chromecast and Amazon's Fire TV have come on strong.

Looking ahead, streaming-media players will continue to grow in popularity, according to Parks. The market researcher predicts nearly 50 million streaming media players will be sold globally by 2017.

None of the companies included in this survey immediately responded to a request for comment.

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