How Amazon Fire TV is looking to navigate the post-pandemic landscape
After two years of being ensconced within pandemic, restrictions are gradually reducing and life is returning to some semblance of normality in the meantime, despite issues in recent months caused by inflation, the Ukraine war and for those living in the UK, the continuing complications regarding Brexit and those transport strikes.
Suffice to say though, that people aren’t spending as much on their sofa as couch potatoes now as they were two years ago. In the audio visual market, many experienced a bump in sales as people sought to improve their TVs and home cinema kit, with a bigger focus on streaming content than ever, whether that be watching films, bingeing TV shows and playing games online.
But to reiterate, more people are heading for the outdoors, which has affected the consumption of content in the home. Or has it? We chatted to Daniel Rausch, Vice President, Entertainment Devices and Services at Amazon, to talk about how about the Fire TV division, its approach to keeping customers happy, and what it’s looking to do down the road.
Question: With regards to viewer engagement as we come out of the pandemic, has there been any dip in engagement or are levels higher than they were pre-pandemic?
Answer: While no one could have predicted the past couple of years, we’ve been inspired by our customers’ desire to maintain a sense of normality by using their TVs to do more in their home. The TV has become central to more than just entertainment. It is now a gym, theatre, class room, and office.
Our customers are streaming billions of hours every month and we’ve seen increased demand for things like Live TV content. Our goal with Fire TV is to simplify the experience for our customers and help them get to the content they love quickly and easily – look for us to continue to deliver innovations on that front.
Has there been any interest in doing a premium Fire TV box like the Apple TV 4K box?
I think if you look at the specs of the Fire TV Cube, I think that you’d see that [it] is for sure a premium experience and that’s been shipping here in the UK since 2019. So three years or so. And it is a very performant device. It’s fluid, it is 4k and has every Dolby feature you can name, so I think if you did a spec comparison, I think you’d see that that is a premium product at a significant cost advantage over Apple TV. Of course, it also has fully embedded far-field voice so you can control that product with the remote or just across the room with your voice and get all of Alexa as well.
Following on from that, will we see a new version of the Fire TV Cube?
At Amazon, we’re always inventing on behalf of customers and while I have nothing to share today about roadmaps, I am excited about what we’ll be delivering to Fire TV customers in the future.
Will you be looking to bring your own brand of Fire Edition TVs to the UK, or continue to work with other brands like you have done with Xiaomi and JVC?
We’re always looking to bring our Fire TV and Amazon services where our customers want them and love working with amazing global brands for smart TVs with Fire TV built-in – but I don’t have anything specific to share at this time.
You’ve got Luna in the US, has there been any sort of motion to bring it to the UK?
So, two things. One Luna is doing great in the US and I think you know being able to instantly play content and have that streaming experience that we’ve all come to love for streaming media and video, having that for games [with a] single tap and suddenly you’re in and playing no download, I don’t need to buy a local PC or console for hundreds of maybe even 1000s of dollars. So Luna is working great from the customer proposition perspective.
It also has channels for content so I can choose just the kinds of games I want. I don’t have to pay for one big holistic subscription. So we know that that’s working. Just like any of our products if we see it’s working somewhere for customers, we know customers elsewhere are gonna love it. I don’t have anything to announce specifically or kind of talked about in terms of timeline looking forward, but I can tell you that once we see something working for customers, obviously we want to bring it [elsewhere].
With the announcement of the Xbox streaming stick bringing competition in the cloud gaming market in the US, do you have any thoughts on that?
We’re incredibly excited by the success we’ve seen with Luna in the U.S. so far and think we offer customers a great choice for cloud gaming, whether they’ve been doing it for a long time or are just getting started. We just announced that Luna will be a part of Samsung’s GameHub.
I believe the value of cloud gaming is to just pick up and play at a whim. We offer Prime Customers a rotating monthly selection of free titles to play with Luna and we’re seeing great customer feedback on this.
Has there been any consideration to work with Microsoft/Nvidia to bring Game Pass/GeForce NOW onto the Fire TV platform?
We believe Fire TV sets itself apart by bringing gaming to the core of the experience. Today, we are happy with how well Fire TV customers are embracing Luna, but we’re always open to delivering content choice to customers.
Has there been lots of interest in the non-4K Fire TV sticks, and out of the two, which sells more? 4K or the HD sticks?
Our Fire TV Stick family remains incredibly popular – during Prime Day, Fire TV Stick 4K was one of the best-sellers. The great thing about our Fire TV Stick family is there’s something for everyone – whether you’re looking for the premium 4K experience for streaming or gaming with Fire TV Stick 4K Max or are just looking for an affordable way to make your current TV smart with Fire TV Stick Lite – there’s something for every customer.
As Amazon Fire has pretty much all the apps you could want, has there been a consideration of building a watchlist that incorporates all platforms, similar to what Sky has done with their Glass TV?
We’re constantly looking at ways to improve our content discovery experience and our goal on Fire TV is for customers to always be able to quickly find the shows, movies, and games that are right for them.
Our ‘Live’ tab gives customers a more comprehensive, categorised browsing experience with rows of live content that are organised by ‘Recent Channels,’ ‘Live Sports,’ ‘Breaking News, and by integrated provider. As customers scroll through each of these rows, a preview of the live channel is presented in the top right corner.
These integrations are designed to bring content out of apps and into the Fire TV user interface, letting customers quickly browse through all of their live TV options across their favourite different sources. We will of course continue to make improvements to simplify the experience for our customers and help them get to the content they love quickly and easily.
Would you ever consider bringing ads to Prime Video within an ad-supported tier in the main app, as opposed to offering customers the option of watching FreeVee?
I can’t comment on Prime Video’s plans. At Fire TV, we know customers love the value of ad-supported content and so we are offering more ways for them to gain access to this type of content. Discovery is key for us, no matter ad-supported or premium content. We’re going to give customers choice and the easiest way to discover content that matters most to them.
Would there be in the future any option to turn ads off like Amazon offers with Kindle?
So [with] the Fire TV interface we get a lot of feedback about how Fire TV introduces customers to new content. Part of that is that we do offer to our media partners that they can sponsor content in the Fire TV interface. Just like with any advertising customers find it really useful when it’s relevant, when it’s beautiful and has high quality and when it helps them discover something. And so I think you’ll see us continue to lean into that as a discovery tool for customers.
With the move into in-car entertainment, where else do you see the Fire TV experience going in terms of any market you haven’t already been in?
Our customer base continues to grow globally, and we want to keep them surprised and delighted with new devices and services. While I don’t have anything specific to share about our roadmap, you can expect us to continue to work with great brands, automakers, and retailers to expand hardware, software, and content options to bring the best of Fire TV to customers all over the world. And you can expect us to deliver even more Alexa experiences on Fire TV, helping to make the TV faster, smarter, and more intuitive.