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Amazon Fire TV passes 40 million active users, seeming to stay atop of Roku

Roku last reported 32.3 million active users but will update its figure next month.

Amazon's Fire TV stick is one of the lowest priced devices in its streaming lineup. 
Sarah Tew/CNET

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Amazon's Fire TV streaming media devices have surpassed more than 40 million active users, up from the 37 million the company reported in September, seeming to continue a lead over Roku. 

Roku, also considered one of the most popular streaming video products, reported it had 32.3 million active users as of the end of September. In the past, the company said it defines an active account as one that has streamed content in the last 30 days; a single account may include streaming on multiple devices with multiple individuals in the household. The company is expected to update its active users figure for the end of last year in late February.

Amazon said it measures active users by the number of user accounts streaming to Fire TV devices in one month.

Roku declined to comment, other than to note that Roku devices are in 20 countries while Amazon Fire TV is in more than 100.

The market for video streaming devices has exploded alongside a storm of new streaming services from tech and media giants, many of which are being showcased at CES 2020 this week. These so-called streaming wars have seen Apple and Disney both launch services to compete with Netflix, with offerings from HBO-owner WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal to come in the first half of 2020. 

That's spurred even more demand for devices to watch big-budget TV programming on the biggest screen in the house. Last month, researcher Parks Associates said 71% of US households that have a broadband connection to the internet also have at least one product to stream video to TVs, such as a smart TV or a device like Fire TV or Roku. 

Sandeep Gupta, vice president of Fire TV development, told CNET at CES on Tuesday that this year Amazon plans to do more with personalization on its Fire TV platform. The company plans to do that by tracking what's trending online and what other shows a viewer is watching.

"It's complicated because you've got to get it right," Gupta said about personalization. "Because if you do it, and it's wrong, it's worse than not doing it at all."

He added that Amazon is currently focused on providing software and services to more TV makers and not on building an Amazon TV, adding: "We're not a TV manufacturer."

A new area for the Fire TV platform is automotive, with Amazon announcing at CES that it's teaming up with BMW and Fiat Chrysler to bring Fire TV-enabled rear-seat TV sets to those carmakers' vehicles. Those screens can be controlled via voice with Alexa or touch, with videos available through a vehicle's Wi-Fi or LTE connection. Future 5G connections would improve this service even more, Gupta said.

"If there's a screen for entertainment," Gupta said, "we should be on it."

Originally published Jan. 6.
Update, Jan. 7: Adds comments from Amazon executive.

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