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Media Streamers

Amazon boasts Fire TV is better at turning you into a couch potato

With Apple TV stealing the spotlight, Amazon brags about its own streaming-media box for logging more hours watched than rival devices. Too bad you can't buy one.

Fire TV has been out of stock since mid-August, stoking speculation that a new version is on the way. Sarah Tew/CNET

With a new Apple TV attracting attention, Amazon on Tuesday said its own streaming-media box gets people hooked on video apps such as Sling TV better than other devices.

Just don't get excited about buying one. Fire TV has been out of stock for almost a month.

Seattle-based Amazon entered the streaming-box race late after Apple, Roku and Google's Chromecast, but its $99 Fire TV box quickly grew in popularity in the last year and a half. Analysts estimate its strong sales rank it in the same league as the best-selling devices that connect your TV to Internet-based media. Fire TV's appeal is especially strong among dedicated shoppers at Amazon's online store.

It's important for Amazon to get a lot of these boxes in homes because they nurture appeal for Prime, its $99-a-year premium membership program. Online entertainment, meanwhile, is stealing viewing hours from traditional TV, and companies controlling the device that delivers that entertainment can keep revenue rolling in. That opportunity is re-energizing key competitor Apple: Next month, the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant plans to start selling the first new Apple TV in three years.

Meanwhile, Fire TV has been out of stock in Amazon's own store since mid-August. That has prompted speculation that a new version of the device is imminent. Amazon said it doesn't speculate on future plans.

Amazon on Tuesday said Fire TV devices, including its $39 stick that plugs into the back of a TV, rank among the top for customer loyalty for Internet-television app Sling TV.

Sling TV said customers watch 16 hours of content on Fire TV per week on average. The service, which is owned by pay-TV operator Dish, wouldn't provide stats on other devices to compare.

Amazon is stingy with hard facts about how its devices and services fare. The company, for example, has never disclosed how many Fire TV boxes have been sold. Opaque references to its performance offer a rare glimpse at how its devices are doing.

"Customers love Amazon Video on Fire TV, streaming more hours of movies and TV shows...per month on Fire TV than on any other living-room device," Michael Paull, vice president of digital video at Amazon, said in a press release.

Amazon also said Amazon Fire TV now has more channels, apps and games than any other streaming-media player, without specifying a number. Competitor Roku has 2,500 channels in the US.