Amazon to ship video-streaming device in April

The gadget thrusts the company into a competitive market in set-top boxes. Its price remains unclear.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 18, 2014 2:51PM
Image: Watching television (© image100/Corbis)By Greg Bensinger, The Wall Street Journal (AMZN) will begin shipping its long-awaited video-streaming device in early April, through its website as well as retailers including Best Buy (BBY) and Staples (SPLS), said people familiar with the company's plans.

The Amazon device will carry a variety of apps available on Roku Inc. and Apple (AAPL) set-top boxes and run on a version of Google's (GOOG) Android software, like Amazon's tablet computers, these people said. Roku's most popular apps include video services Netflix (NFLX) and Hulu Plus and music service Pandora (P), as well as Amazon's own video-streaming service.

Pricing remains unclear, though the people familiar with the company's plans said the device likely would come with incentives available to members of Amazon's Prime streaming video and shipping program. Last week Amazon said it is increasing the price of Prime by $20 to $99 annually, in part because of the rising cost of acquiring video.

The device will thrust Amazon into an intensely competitive market in set-top boxes, which includes the Roku device, Apple TV and Google's Chromecast, a top-seller on Amazon's own website. Roku's streaming devices sell for as little as $50, while the Chromecast is $35.

But the product would give Amazon more access to the living room. Amazon offers its own streaming-video service, for which it produces original programming. For now, the service is available only on other companies' devices, so Amazon misses out on revenue from ads or app downloads, as well as data about consumers' behavior.

An Amazon spokesman declined to comment.

Streaming video is becoming an important new arena for Amazon, as it battles for viewers with Netflix Inc., Hulu LLC and Time Warner's (TWC) HBO Go.

Amazon is set to produce a new slate of original television shows, following the critical success last year of political comedy "Alpha House," which the company offered free to Prime customers.

In recent weeks, Amazon has held talks with record companies and music publishers in hopes of creating an on-demand music-streaming service for Prime customers, people familiar with the matter have said.

Amazon has distributed a pre-production version of its streaming device to select app developers, and has indicated it will carry the Fire name Amazon uses for Kindle tablet computers, these people said.

A TechCrunch report Monday said the device will resemble Chromecast's dongle, which plugs into a television and looks like a thumb drive.

The people familiar with Amazon's plans warned that the company may alter the rollout because of financial, performance or other concerns.

The device has been in development since at least April of last year. Amazon plans to ship it with a simple remote control, the people familiar with the plans said, though reports this month suggest Amazon may sell a more advanced controller separately.

Amazon last year demonstrated how its latest tablet computer can connect with television sets to work like a remote control.

More from The Wall Street Journal

Mar 18, 2014 4:27PM
A little the game, huh?  ALready can do all of this with the Rocku, Chrome TV, Xbox, Playstation, and any smart TV.  Where is the competitive advantage?
Mar 18, 2014 5:31PM

as long as I don't have to buy and install more junk to see what amazon streaming is all about, i'm fine with it. 


if amazon figures out how to get into my existing blue ray, i'm fine with it. 


if I have to buy one more thing, forget it!

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