From Binge Buying to Binge Watching

Four years ago, Amazon created “Prime Day,” ostensibly to celebrate the company’s 1995 founding, but also as a shrewdly strategic summer counter to Black Friday. The event, which offered online discounts exclusively to Prime members, worked in a big, big way. In 2016, sales from Prime Day made up a whopping 74 percent of all online commerce. Prime Day sales rose 60 percent the following year, with Amazon offering first-time discounts on its own services, including streaming video. Last year, the sale lasted 36 hours and earned the company $4.2 billion. This year, Amazon added something new to its offering—a truce with a longtime rival—by again allowing Google’s YouTube videos to stream on its Fire TV devices. Don’t go thinking that this is an example of a corporate giant, flush with success and riding a wave of big-hearted benevolence, deciding to bury the competitive hatchet for the good of all customers. It’s more of an attempt to address what has become a rather costly feud that began back in 2015 when Amazon banned the sale of Google Chromecast devices on its site. Going so far as to delete third-party vendor listings, Amazon released a statement reading: “Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime. It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.” As a result of this particular move, Roku, a relatively unknown independent, became the leading online content streaming company, hosting thousands of video platforms and apps while presenting a simpler interface than both Fire TV and Chromecast. Some 29.1 million Americans stream with Roku monthly, up from 20.8 million in 2018, giving the company a 37 percent share of the market—nearly double that of Chromecast. Roku was founded in 2002 by Anthony Wood, who also invented the DVR. Wood is betting that his company will remain on top after the Amazon-Google ceasefire because Roku is solely intent on content streaming while Google and Amazon clearly have bigger fish to fry. Time will tell whether Wood is right. In the meantime we can all sit back and binge watch award-winning Amazon Prime content like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Fleabag and The Man in the High Castle from our Google Chromecast/Ultra and Android TV sets and boxes. For the 69 percent of consumers who pay for internet streaming services, it’s like Christmas in July once again.  

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