Streaming Media Player Adoption Grows in the U.S.

At the beginning of 2014, only 16 percent of U.S. homes had a streaming media player.

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Forty percent of U.S. homes with Internet access will have a streaming media player by the first quarter of 2017, bringing the total number of homes with these devices to 39 million, according to a report by NPD Group.

By comparison, only 16 percent of U.S. Internet homes had a streaming media player at the beginning of 2014. After holiday purchases are counted, that figure is expected to grow to more than 24% this year by the end of the first quarter this year.

Overall, the total number of devices delivering apps to TVs will reach 211 million by 2017. Streaming media players will grow fastest, followed by TVs, NPD said.

"From the device side of the equation an updated Apple TV could help to further the current growth rate," John Buffone, an NPD analyst told eWEEK. "From a content standpoint, standalone streaming services that do not require a pay TV subscription from top TV Networks such as HBO, Showtime, CBS, and Viacom, will serve to further adoption of streaming media players."

Buffone said consumers are still looking for improvements in buffering. He also noted that broadband speeds will become a more pronounced factor as consumers get accustomed to viewing high-resolution 4K content. .

"For the most part, the consumer recognizes seamless delivery of programming more than the technology that provides it to them," Buffone explained. "There are numerous points in the distribution chain that can impact streaming content delivery, starting with the servers that host the programming, the ISPs’ broadband pipes, the network congestion that may occur within the last mile to the consumer’s home, and the in-home device that delivers the programming to the TV."

In its infancy, the streaming media player market was driven by growth from Apple and Roku, but over the past year and a half Amazon and Google have made a significant impact. In addition to streaming media players, TVs, video game consoles, and Blu-ray disc players also deliver apps to viewers’ TVs, Buffone explained.

NPD also reports that usage of Amazon’s Prime Instant Video service is the fastest-growing of the top five video services serving the streaming media device market.

The report found the top five video apps used on TVs by streaming media player owners were Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime & Instant Video, Hulu Plus and HBOGO.

"Better integration between apps and linear TV programming will be a key factor for attracting later adopters that to date still watch a significant amount of programming through their cable or satellite provider," Buffone said.