The long-awaited update to Apple TV was one of the big headlines coming out of last year’s major product launch. This week, Apple TV only got a couple of incidental mentions during a nearly two-hour product launch.
So, what gives?
It might be that the new Apple TV is not proving to be as popular with U.S. customers as expected. According to data this week from research firm eMarketer, Apple TV has fallen further behind Google’s Chromecast in terms of U.S. market share.
While 18.4 percent of connected TV users in the U.S. have Chromecast, only 12.5 percent have an Apple TV. Apple remains third behind Roku, which has 15.2 percent of connected TV users.
Worse, eMarketer noted that Apple’s share actually shrank slightly over the past year, from 12.6 percent in 2015. In 2014, eMarketer had reported Apple TV’s marketshare at 13.5 percent.
For 2016, eMarketer projects that Apple TV’s share will fall to 12.4 percent and hold there through 2019. In an April 2016 report, eMarketer described Apple TV as “among the less popular choices for over-the-top video viewing.”
Meanwhile, Chromecast’s share was up from 16.2 percent in 2015. And it’s projected to climb to 25 percent by 2015.
The report doesn’t mention Amazon’s Fire TV Stick.
Now, there are a few things worth noting.
First, Apple famously says it doesn’t worry about marketshare, but rather focuses on quality and experience.
Second, the number of Apple TVs in use is growing, just not as fast as Chromecast. Back in April, eMarketer projected there would be 20.5 million homes with an Apple TV by the end of 2016, compared to 30.2 million for Chromecast. That would be a year-over-year increase of 15 percent for Apple, and 32.4 percent for Google.
Finally, the basic Apple TV costs $150, compared to $35 for the Chromecast. The latter has limited access to apps and no remote. So Apple likely makes more on each unit sold, which probably suits it just fine. And there is also bound to be some bump in content sold via apps and media.
In other words, it’s possible (though not clear) that Apple makes more profit selling fewer devices. Just like it does with the iPhone.
Still, there’s no sign the revamped Apple TV has exploded out of the gates. The company is reportedly hoping to create a live TV package to attract more cord cutters, but those efforts remain complicated.
For my money, a potentially revolutionary TV device was always more exciting than a smartwatch. Indeed, in opening up its new TV box to developers last year, Apple declared that apps were the future of TV.
But, for the moment, Apple’s momentum with U.S. TV viewers feels more like an evolution than a revolution.