Chromecast, a two-inch-wide dongle that brings Web smarts and video streaming to the TV, could present a threat to specialized streaming boxes from Roku and Apple.
Some analysts also believe the $35 dongle, introduced last Wednesday (July 24). will finally give Google a vehicle to deliver ad-supported and subscription-based YouTube fare to viewers.
“Not being on the television is really tough for Google; this gets them there,” Colin Dixon, chief analyst and founder of nScreen Media, said, noting that Chromecast’s simplicity and low cost positions it to succeed where the muchmaligned Google TV device had failed. Likewise, Dixon said he believes that Chromecast usage will far exceed that of video-streaming apps built directly into broadband-connected TVs.
Getting YouTube onto the TV screen is of increasing importance to Google as the company expands its slate of free, ad-supported YouTube “channels” and attempts to find takers for a recently launched lineup of 60 subscription video streams.
“Where do people want to watch premium content? On the TV,” said Dixon, who said he believes Chrome cast functionality will eventually be built into TVs. “For adsupported content, people watch longer the bigger the screen is.”
Chromecast is not the same animal as the Apple TV box or Roku devices, which rely on applications tailored for their specific platforms. Chromecast, which plugs into the High-Definition Multimedia Interface port of a TV, ships over-the-top video and other Web content to the big screen, but is controlled by a smartphone, tablet or PC.
Early on, Chromecast has been optimized to support such OTT services such as YouTube and Netflix. Hulu, which has previously blocked TV-based browsers from accessing its content, is working with Google on a way to bring an “optimized” viewing experience to Chromecast, according to the website AllThingsD.
Initial evidence suggests that Chromecast’s price point and product bundling strategy is a hit. Within 24 hours of putting Chromecast on sale, Google canceled a promo that offered three free months of Netflix with a Chromecast purchase. “Due to overwhelming demand for Chromecast devices since launch, the three-month Netflix promotion (which was available in limited quantities) is no longer available,” Google said in a statement.
Online retailers such as Amazon.com and Best Buy also ran out of stock the day after Chromecast was introduced. Consumers who want to buy it directly from the Google Play Store are in for a three- to four-week wait.
Some cable operators are also trying to pull off what Chromecast does. Comcast, for example, is beta testing a feature called “Send to TV” that enables customers to instantly send Web content they’re watching on the smartphone, tablet or PC to the TV.
Comcast supports Send to TV only on X1, its new Internet protocol-capable, next-generation video platform.