Amazon’s release of an over-the-air DVR in November is just in time for the holiday shopping frenzy. However, it won’t set any sales records and may also anger partners.
Amazon releases a DVR
In a surprise move, at least to this analyst, Amazon announced it would release a DVR in November called the Fire TV Recast. The device comes in two flavors. The cheaper option will cost $229.99 and comes with two TV tuners and a 500GB hard drive that the company says will hold 75 hours of content. A four-tuner 1 TB version costs $50 more.
For the device to work, users will need to purchase and mount an HD antenna. They will also need a compatible playback device connected to the same Amazon accounts as the Fire TV Recast. Devices include Fire TV streaming media players, Fire TV Edition televisions, Echo Show, and iOS and Android mobile devices. A user can also drive all the functions of the Recast by voice using Alexa.
vMVPDs better, more immediate solution for most
As I said last month, I don’t think releasing a DVR makes sense for Amazon. The first problem is getting people to use an antenna. Sling TV asks its customers to use an antenna and a special AirTV streaming media player to watch and record local TV. The service’s growth has slowed dramatically in 2018, while competitors that include local channels are continuing to grow strongly.
Virtual MVPDs like YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, and FuboTV are putting much effort behind providing local TV channels. Hulu Live has 600 local stations and just announced it had reached 1 million subscribers 16 months after launch. YouTube TV has 500 local channels, and fuboTV has 486. The services also include at least basic DVR functionality in all plans.
If a consumer wants to watch a local football or baseball game, signing up for a vMVPD delivers immediate access whereas an antenna solution could take a few days to install. If a consumer wants to watch recent TV shows, an $8 a month Hulu subscription gets most of the content of interest.
Puts Amazon in competition with its partners
CBS All Access is available from Amazon Channels. It recently added live local channels to the Amazon version of its service. nScreenMedia expects all broadcasters to launch direct-to-consumer apps within the next two years. Given the success CBS has had with Amazon Channels, the other broadcasters should also be keen to partner with Amazon Channels. The Fire TV Recast might give them pause for thought. Once Amazon customers purchase Recast, they will have free access to all those broadcast channels.
Cheaper options available
There are 16.5 million antenna users in the US, and the market is showing solid growth. As well, all the growth is coming from homes that use an antenna solution in combination with online services like Netflix and HBO Now. A blended solution such as a Fire TV Recast and Fire TV streaming media player could be a good fit for those broadband+antenna homes. However, there are cheaper, equivalent options available.
Channel Master’s Stream+ uses the Android TV operating system and includes two tuners. It has a voice remote and is currently available bundled with a 1 TB drive for $178. The AirTV streaming media player is also built around Android TV and costs $129.99 with an over-the-air tuner, though a user must add a compatible hard drive.
Amazon’s enviable marketing ability may be able to overcome cheaper competitors. Unfortunately, overcoming the reluctance of consumers to return to the days of an antenna will be much harder.
Why it matters
Amazon is releasing an over-the-air DVR in November.
Getting people to use an antenna will be tough when vMVPD solutions delivering many local channels can be subscribed to instantly and include DVR functionality.
Cheaper options with equivalent functionality already exist.