Did Amazon.com's Fire TV Leap Ahead of Apple TV?

Amazon has an exclusive deal for HBO streaming content -- but why does that matter?

May 3, 2014 at 11:00AM

Fire Tv

Source: Amazon 

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) Prime subscribers will soon have access to instant streams of older HBO television content. The multi-year agreement will include content that's at least three years old, but new content will become available at a later date when the HBO Go app launches for the Fire TV streaming box. Is this new deal enough to push the Fire TV ahead of competitors from Roku, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)

A customer won't need a Fire TV to benefit from the older, streaming content, which simply comes with a Prime membership. Amazon recently announced that the Prime annual subscription price will increase from $79 to $99 and the HBO addition might help more customers justify the higher cost.  

Will the combination of the older Prime content and HBO Go prove enough to push the Fire TV to the front of the streaming-device pack? 

Fire TV is not the only one with HBO Go 
HBO Go requires an HBO subscription through a cable provider. So the service isn't a selling point for cord-cutters -- or people who ditch traditional cable service in favor of streaming alternatives. However, Apple TV, Roku, and Google's Chromecast already have HBO Go available as a third party app. So that addition is less Amazon leaping to the front than the Fire TV playing catch-up. It's still an important development since the Fire TV launched with a relatively paltry group of apps with the assumption that more would follow.

Will the older content through Amazon Prime prove a better selling point? 

Prime selling point?  
Only the Fire TV and Roku boxes natively support the Amazon Instant Streaming app, though there are workarounds for some boxes which lack that support. So the HBO news further pits the Fire TV directly against Roku. 

While Roku has been around longer in the streaming-box market, Amazon is the broader lifestyle brand. The Fire TV will win out for customers who already have Prime memberships and/or purchased content stored on Amazon's cloud services. 

It's the potential to add more Prime members -- with or without the Fire TV purchase -- that's Amazon's primary motivation. The Fool's own Brendan Matthews ran some back-of-the-envelope calculations and estimated that the lifetime value per Prime member is nearly two and a half times the value of a non-Prime member. 

Foolish final thoughts 
Amazon has positioned itself as a permeating lifestyle brand and those who are already intertwined with the company may snag up Fire TVs to complete their collections. The new HBO streaming on Prime might also serve as an induction to members who have had little experience with Amazon in the past. The HBO deal was less about the Fire TV becoming the winner in streaming boxes and more about Amazon taking another step forward into the lifestyle space. 

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Brandy Betz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Apple, and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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