CES 2020: Amazon lights up Fire TV for service providers, including Verizon

LAS VEGAS -- Amid a flurry of Fire TV-related announcements focused on the home and connected automobiles, Amazon has introduced a version of its streaming platform that will be tailored for cable operators, telcos and other types of video service providers.

Amazon, which has largely focused its Fire TV platform on the retail sector with a lineup of streaming devices and integrations with TV makers, said the new Fire TV Edition for Operators will be customized for video service providers. Tata Sky in India and Verizon are the first announced service providers to take advantage of the new program. Amazon declined to say if any other service providers have already signed up, but noted that Fire TV Edition for Operators launched today in North America, Europe, India and Japan.

Amazon's focus on video service providers isn't a huge surprise. Last May, Bill Routt, president and COO of MobiTV, a video software/infrastructure company that has teamed up with dozens of US pay-TV providers on next-gen streaming products, told Light Reading that Amazon was exploring the partnership angle with service providers using a version of Fire TV that is more optimized and customized to fit that market.

Amazon did not provide a lot of detail about how it is customizing Fire TV for service providers, but did note that the offering would provide partners with "merchandising opportunities" in the Fire TV interface/experience. Routt said last year that one possibility under discussion was to have the operator-tailored version of the Fire TV platform prioritize search results of a TV show or movie if it is directly available from the service provider while still presenting results from other content sources, including Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.

It was not immediately clear if the Fire TV Edition for Operators will boot up to the pay-TV partner's app as Google does today with streaming devices that are powered by its Android TV Operator Tier.

Why this matters
Amazon has scaled up the retail side of Fire TV, announcing today that there are now more than 40 million "active" Fire TV users, ahead of the 32.3 million active users Roku had at the end of Q3 2019. Its new service provider focus could open more doors for Fire TV as Amazon looks to expand the influence of its streaming platform and other Alexa-powered products in its connected home arsenal.

If it's successful, Amazon's move into the service provider sector will also apply competitive pressure on the pay-TV software/platform market and take aim at other suppliers and organizations that already have a sizable piece of it, including Google, Apple, TiVo, Roku as well as the Reference Design Kit (RDK), an open source video and broadband-focused software platform managed by a joint venture of Comcast, Liberty Global and Charter Communications. Among those in the RDK group, Comcast has forged syndication deals for its X1 platform with Cox Communications and three Canadian service providers -- Shaw Communications, Rogers Communications and Videotron -- and has held X1 syndication talks with Charter.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

jesikamoris 1/7/2020 | 4:29:15 AM
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