May 21, 2019

Fire TV Tops Roku in Total Active Users

At last week’s Pay TV Show in Denver, Amazon shared data on Fire TV’s penetration, declaring the platform is now the most popular ancillary TV streaming platform in the world with 34 million users, By contrast, Roku claims to have just over 29 million active users.

But does this hold for the U.S., in particular, and how does domestic use break out by sticks versus boxes?

Company Claims

In its most recent quarter, Roku reported that the company had 29.1 million active users that streamed on average about 3.5 hours of entertainment per day, about 8.9 billion hours of content. The company stated a gross profit of $101 million during the quarter, but a loss nearly $11 million, up $4 million Q1 2018.

Amazon Fire TV
Amazon doesn’t break out Fire TV in its public financials, but at this year’s Pay-TV Show, Jen Prenner, Fire TV GM and global head of Marketing, Growth & Engagement reported that the platform had 34 million active users, up almost 7 million in just four months, 2 million in Q1 alone. This is impressive growth, undoubtedly the product of promotions within the Amazon retail ecosystem.

Apples-to-Apples Comparison?
First, it is important to recognize that Amazon aggressively sells Fire TV boxes and sticks internationally. Conversely, though Roku is available in nearly two dozen countries, to this point domestic U.S. sales make up the vast majority of its sales.

As TechCrunch reports, Amazon has only recent started using the phrase ‘active users’ versus ‘users’ (i.e., the total number of users). In other words, to this point Amazon’s Fire TV numbers left much to the imagination. Was a ‘user’ to be understood as an individual that engaged content on Fire TV without their own user account, or as a household account shared among multiple users? After some back and forth with Amazon about this, TechCrunch said that ‘active users’ are equal to a single registered account, not the number of users that may be using this account.

The good news is that this is consistent with Roku’s understanding of an ‘active user,’ so the comparisons are meaningful. The bad news is that financial data provides little insight into whether an active account is serving one or multiple viewers, which cannot be addressed by simply counting personal sub-accounts under one master account, as many viewers don’t log into their personal sub-accounts when viewing with others.

So How Does This Battle Shake Out Domestically?
Here is where we run into a wall, as both companies tend to keep purchase information close to the chest. However, TDG recently queried both U.S. Roku and Fire TV users and we’re happy to share our latest findings. This is survey research, not unit counts, but the insights are not inconsistent with the company-reported numbers and right in line with TDG’s expectations (we’ve been tracking this for years now).

According to TDG’s Benchmarking the Connected Consumer 2019 research — the 10th anniversary of this project, mind you — just over 30% of adult broadband users have a streaming box in their household, while 38% have a streaming stick.

As to which brand dominates the two categories, the following table is helpful.

As noted, Roku dominates streaming boxes in the U.S., present in 51% of box-using households, while Amazon lags at 39%. However, Amazon Fire TV dominates the U.S. streaming stick market, present in 57% of stick-using households, with Roku lagging at 30%. Notably, Google Chromecast ranks third in stick penetration, present 26% of user households.

That being said, when we total stick and box users together, and broaden our focus from user households to all broadband households, 21% use a Roku and 23% use a Fire TV, putting the two about even domestically.

While Amazon Fire TV has more active users than Roku globally, when we focus on the US market only and separate streaming boxes and sticks, the competitive landscape is a bit more even.

Stick with TDG and stay ahead of the curve.

Michael Greeson co-founded TDG in 2004 and serves as President and Director of Research. As an 18-year veteran of the connected consumer, pay-TV, and broadband media spaces, Michael is widely acknowledged as true thought leader, having accurately predicted the pace of broadband diffusion, the rise of streaming video, and the ultimate impact of these trends on the TV ecosystem.

Michael graduated with honors with an MA in Social Science from the University of Chicago, in which he blended studies in social theory and philosophy. Prior to Chicago, Michael completed his BA in Philosophy with honors from the University of Central Oklahoma. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his Labrador, Zoe. TDG was acquired in January 2019 by Screen Engine/ASI, one of the top TV/film research firms in the country, where Michael now serves as Senior Vice President.

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