Amazon Fire TV leads Roku with “well over” 30 million active users

I’ve been going through news that I didn’t get a chance to cover while I was at CES (and during the miserable week that followed while I was sick with a nasty cold I caught at CES,) so forgive me if some of the next few articles I write aren’t timely. One thing that was revealed last week was the fact that there are “well over” 30 million active Fire TV users. This was told to CNET by Amazon’s head of Fire TV, Marc Whitten. The news is significant because Roku, thought by many to still be the most popular streaming media player platform, announced a few days prior that they had 27 million active users.

Unless another media player manufacturer comes forward with a bigger number, this puts the Fire TV on top of the streaming device market. Figures like these are probably more interesting to wall street analysts than consumers, but it’s nice to know that the platform that most of the people reading this site are using is doing quite well. No matter how much you personally like a device, it’s best that the platform is thriving, so that 3rd-parties continue to support and prioritize the platform.

The Fire TV’s popularity has surely been helped in recent months by the very well received Fire TV Stick 4K. While chatting with Amazon employees at CES, several of them told me that the Fire TV Stick 4K has outsold all 4K-capable Fire TV models that have come before it. That should come as no surprise since the Fire TV 3 relatively unremarkable, to say the least, and the Fire TV Stick 4K is half the price of all other past 4K-capable Fire TV models.

For comparison, and for those interested, my Downloader app has been installed by over 16 million Fire TV users since the app was released a little over 2 years ago. I don’t know how many of those users are actively using the app, so you can’t completely compare it to Amazon’s figure of 30 million active Fire TV users, but it does indicate to me that a significant percentage of users have at least peeked over Amazon’s walled garden.

Look for a major updated to Downloader coming (hopefully) soon, and an all-new unrelated app from me coming even sooner.

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30 comments
  1. James W McGough says:

    Amazon should add the Beta version of Xfinity which Roku has to double its user base. The Roku ultra or other ROKU streaming sticks can replace a $10 monthly rental for a cable converter box for a second television to watch Xfinity cable tv channels or can travel and be used on a hotel TV with hdmi inputs and wifi capability.

    • Y2Bogus says:

      I think that’s up to the individual content provider, and I think cable companies are resistant to negate the use of their pure profit cable boxes. I love my Fire TV’s, but I dislike the intrusive ad content. If they had a cleaner interface like Roku, I’d love them a lot more. I’d even be willing to pay a premium to have them removed.

      • RG Geiger says:

        I agree the total lack of the ability to edit home page interface is a big minus but I love home page tinkering (coming from pure Android world). I ignore the ads but would so love to the able to move the “what on” live TV bar to the top. If I could just do that, ah I can wish.:-!

        • Jay says:

          I pretty much ignore the adds as well, but what drives me crazy on the home page is the row of recent apps directly above the row of apps and channels. This usually results in many of the same apps showing up in both rows. It’s redundant, unattractive, and takes up way too much screen space. As many others have stated, allowing some user customization of the home screen would be a major improvement.

      • Bill says:

        You are able to pay a premium to have the ads removed. All you have to do is contact your cable provider and they can set you up!

      • Ruben Garcia says:

        fire os is android base so you easily put a launcher like fire starter or lean back launcher

    • Nick Hathaway says:

      I also have a Fire TV and a Roku and the only reason I have a Roku is for the Xfinity app.

    • imlvlegitcusimthasht says:

      The ads actually help in recommending when you really don’t know what to watch

  2. Jay says:

    30 million active users. I’d think that such a large potential user base for YouTube TV would motivate Google to finally find a way to settle things with Amazon. I know its a complicated situation, but still …30 million!

  3. RG Geiger says:

    That jump ahead of Roku is a real significant event. Having a Roku account I found I can use the web page but there’s not that much I want to see there. Plus Roku interface on the box is too simple for me. I think the fire tv lead is justified and not surprising. Roku is way over rated in my mind.

  4. Tampa8 says:

    Couple of things come to mind about this. I’m not surprised Fire TV has taken a lead in active users because Roku has lost some of it’s luster. It was a leader when it was the only big player in town but since (and of course it took time) Fire TV has become closer to what people are used to, and seems to be more innovative and best for the millions of Amazon Prime users.
    Second it isn’t like some other comparisons because unlike DISH/Direct TV, Fios/Spectrum etc people don’t necessarily pick just one. Virtually everyone I know and myself have more than one streaming device very often Fire TV and Roku. So while still a landmark for Amazon I bet a good percentage of those that actively use Fire TV still use Roku too. Going forward may tell more when devices have to be replaced for one reason or another.

  5. Fjtorres says:

    The size of the user base matters and will matter even more as streaming eats away at broadcast and cable and more of the content creators move to build their own streaming services.

    The recent DC UNIVERSE service from WB exemplifies this: it launched with support for iOS, Android, and desktop/laptop browsers. First streaming device supported? Fire TV. Second? Roku. It has yet to support the 90M PS4s and 50M XBOX ONEs, much less the 100m strong XBOX360s and PS3s and reports of lagging subscriptions are popping up.

    Dual lesson: the content distributors need to support as many devices as possible (Look at Netflix and Hulu running on almost anything) to reach as many users as possible but they prioritize device support by userbase size.

    There’s strength in numbers.
    I’m not likely to sign up for Disney+ when it launches later this year but it would be good to have the option from day one.

    • AFTVnews says:

      Well said. In the early Fire TV days, it was common for the Fire TV to be among the last platforms to get a new service. I think it was because mobile devices were always first and their equivalent TV platforms (Apple TV and Android TV) naturally followed. Now that the media player market has matured, services have a much better idea of where they should focus their attention, so the Fire TV is near the top of the list because of its user base size.

      It’ll be interesting to see how things play out as more TVs running Roku, Android, and Fire OS are purchased. An active user on a stand-alone media player means a lot more than an active user of a TV running the same OS, since there’s no assurance the TV user is even using the OS (and its app platform) at all. User base figures are going to start to get muddy for these platforms if a big chunk of “active” users might be doing nothing more than turning on the TV to watch through an external device.

      • Fjtorres says:

        Indeed.
        It will (or should) make a difference which platform it is, too, because platform demographics and usage vary.

        Focusing on living room streaming devices in general over mobile needs to be a priority for long form video services (full tv episodes and movies) because that is where the present and future lies: displacing eyeballs from broadcast and cable. The number of devices themselves matters less than the way they’re used.

        Phones, tablets, and TVs have uses other than streaming.
        Fire TV and Roku device ownership indicates intent. Service providers need to take note. Failure to do so will hurt.

    • RG Geiger says:

      DC universe TITANS, best show of 2018 IMHO. Can not wait for Doom Patrol

  6. Nick Hathaway says:

    Elias, I got pink eye at CES, so I feel your pain.

    • AFTVnews says:

      Oh man! Sorry to hear that! I always heard that CES is a cesspool of germs and viruses but I was lucky to come home unscathed my first 2 years. I wasn’t so lucky this third year, probably because I met with a lot more people now that I’ve better figured out the show. What sucks is that I put off writing a lot of articles, thinking I’ll get them out as soon as I got back, but the cold put me out of commission for a week.

  7. Fred says:

    Roku refusing to recognize people with Antennas will be their downfall

    • OG Charlie says:

      They did with the Roku TV and they have a big portion of the smart tv market.

    • Len Mullen says:

      @Fred, the TCL Roku TV is the best OTA television I have come across.

      – It’s inexpensive. I was looking to trim my electric bill by weening my kid off the 60″ plasma. My kid loves it for games.
      – It’s pretty. It’s not plasma and the picture fades if you are far to the left or right or far above or below the set, but from most of my living room, it looks great and I see no motion blur watching sports. I bought the second one to replace a 43″ plasma in my bedroom. Very satisfied.
      – It’s smart. Not smart like it can run apps (it runs the Roku OS). Smart like it remembers what input you last used when powered on. That means if you use an antenna, it comes up like a dumb television. For some of us, that is very nice.
      – It’s informative. Hit the back button on the remote and you get a full screen grid style EPG (Electronic Program Guide).
      – It’s tricky. Plug a 16g USB 2.0 thumb drive into this television and you will be able to pause, rewind, and fast forward through 90 minutes of television. This television does not record programs, but it does most of the things we do with a DVR.

      So, for ~$350, you get a 55″ TCL 4K UHD Roku TV which is great for games and sports, remembers your preferences, has a nice EPG, and can pause a program long enough for you to answer the phone or eat dinner. What could be better than that?

      • Fred says:

        You hit the Key for me, no DVR. Don’t know why Tv manufacturers can implement even a basic dvr

        • Len Mullen says:

          @Fred, I wonder if TCL will add DVR functionality to their televisions. Seems like they are right there — PSIP guide, trick play. That said, OTA DVRs are a niche. Trick play is a widely used, wildly underappreciated feature that is missing from all other OTA televisions, so, right there, Roku is loving the Antenna People.

          My in-laws have no internet access at all. I bought them a DVR+ at launch (one of the batch that came by plane to make Christmas…almost). My young niece asked Nana when she got cable after powering on the DVR to a grid guide. This year, I got them one of those TCL Roku 55″ sets. Her father was blown away and we started making plans for their internet-less camp.

          Roku has passed on a lot of opportunities to be a force in the OTA arena (I strongly lobbied Roku, Echostar, and ChannelMaster to combine the Roku OS (linux) and the DVR+ (also linux). Someone is going to figure that out. Might as well be TCL.

        • Ray says:

          I just got a TCL 65″ TV (65R617), and when I saw that it had the Roku OTA capabilities, I was stoked. But without the ability to actually record anything, It seems pretty pointless to me. I mean, who actually watches television in realtime anymore? At this point, I find commercials unbearable.

          Hopefully TCL will come out with a way for users to plug a hard drive into the USB port and use the Roku interface as a DVR. Then, and only then, will the Roku interface have any value. At this point, I try and avoid it completely in favor of my Fire TV, Apple TV, and TiVo.

          • Len Mullen says:

            I think you have to add a whole bunch of ‘to me’s to your post. Obviously, your situation is ‘special’. Most people watch TV ‘in realtime’.

  8. TechyChris says:

    Elias how about a little preview of your “all-new unrelated app”!
    I’m curious!

  9. gary says:

    Firestick/Fire TV is android based and open for app development giving it a huge advantage & flexibility compared to closed systems like Roku & apple. Surprised there isn’t a high end model for those who want More. Enter Nvidia Shield….

  10. MrH says:

    As stated above the ads can be turned off along with data collection.If you don’t like something in the recent row you press the menu button and either remove it or move it to the back. Its obvious you have little user experience, yet knock it….lol

  11. P.Andre says:

    @Elias, whoever you contact at Amazon is please tell them that the switcharoo they did with the new remote with standard fire tv stick is selling for the same price with the older remote in my stores such as Best Buy, Amazon Kiosk, Amazon website, Target and more. This is not fair to all the customers whom bought firesticks in christamas holiday to find that Amazon has released and updated Firestick with new remote. Same pricing mate 39.99, which is ridiculous.

    • AFTVnews says:

      If you bought the Fire TV Stick on sale during the holidays ($24.99), you can now buy the new remote on sale for $14.99. That comes to $39.98, which is the same price as the new bundle. That seems more than fair to me.

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