Cable Tech

Walmart may wade into TV dongle market

Walmart appears to be looking at adding an Android-based streaming stick to its budget onn. device lineup, according to a recent Federal Communications Commission filing.

According to the filing, the proposed dongle, built by Askey Computer Corp., would be branded as onn. 2K Streaming Stick. Sporting Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, the device would plug into a TV's HDMI port. The embedded chipset is capable of 1080p video at 60 frames per second, so unlike streaming sticks from such rivals as Roku and Amazon, it would not support 4K video. That likely means it would be positioned as a low-cost device, which fits with Walmart's budget-friendly onn. brand.

A closeup of the included remote indicates it has Google Assistant voice control, a TV guide menu button and quick-launch buttons for Netflix, YouTube, Disney+ and HBO Max.

Looking further under the hood, it's somewhat unclear whether this stick is based on Android TV or the recently upgraded Google TV interface. While the filing indicates the stick's OS is Android TV 10, the remote is patterned after Google TV's remote, as 9to5Google points out. The device also comes with a micro-USB rather than the increasingly common USB-C connector, as well as a HDMI extension cable allowing users to move the dongle closer to a home Wi-Fi router for a better connection.

Typically, an FCC filing is one of the final steps before a device is launched, hinting that this streaming stick will soon join Walmart's home theater lineup, which already includes TV speakers and soundbars, TV mounts and DVD players. Of note, Walmart has partnered with Roku since 2019 to supply jointly branded Roku and onn. speakers, but the lineup does not include versions of Roku's streaming video products.

Adding a streaming stick would fill a gap in the onn. portfolio, and it may be designed to provide a low-cost alternative in an already crowded and fragmented streaming device market. A recent Strategy Analytics report on fourth-quarter 2020 connected TV devices sales – including smart TVs, streaming devices and game consoles – put Amazon at the top of the list, with sales of 13.2 million devices and a 12.1% market share. Roku came in sixth, with 6.3 million devices shipped and a 6% market share, while Google trailed in 10th place, with 4.7 million devices shipped and Apple TV in 11th place, with 4.3 million devices shipped in the quarter.

In the streaming device category, Amazon and Roku extended their lead over Google and Apple, with a combined 60% market share.

“Amazon has had great success with its Fire TV Stick 4K, which became the world's best-selling digital media streamer device in 2020,” noted Strategy Analytics Senior Analyst Edouard Bouffenie. “However, the market remains fragmented overall and there is still a long way to go in the battle to build global-scale TV streaming platforms during the 2020s.”

— Karen Brown, Special Contributor, Light Reading

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