Fire TV passes 40M users as Amazon expands its streaming media device to cars

The Toshiba 65-inch Fire TV Edition smart TV. (Amazon Photo)

Amazon’s push to control the television-viewing experience is expanding beyond the living room and into cars.

Amazon is partnering with BMW and Fiat Chrysler Automotive to bring Fire TV to vehicles for the first time. The program includes hands-free voice control of the digital assistant Alexa, a touch screen interface, the ability to stream content over a vehicle’s WiFi or LTE connection and downloading capabilities.

Fire TV’s expansion to vehicle’s is part of a broader push by Amazon to bring the program to as many devices as possible. Amazon has been steadily releasing new and refreshed devices over the last year. Today’s announcements, pegged to the kickoff of the big CES event in Las Vegas this week, were not about new consumer products, instead focusing on making it easier for potential partners to build Fire TV-powered devices.

Amazon’s quest to grow the influence of Fire TV appears to be working. The tech giant disclosed Monday that it now has 40 million users, a 33 percent rise over a year ago.

A study from eMarketer predicted that households abandoning cable TV in favor of streaming services would rise 19.2 percent in 2019. Amazon is part of a crowded market of streaming media players vying for a slice of this growing customer base.

One of Amazon’s chief rivals, Roku, is also experiencing rapid growth. It reported 32.3 million users in November, a 36 percent year-over-year spike.

(Amazon Graphic)

In September, Amazon introduced the Nebula Soundbar – Fire TV Edition, a device built in partnership with Anker that turns any TV into a smart TV experience. Amazon on Monday announced a pair of new smart soundbars, developed with TCL. And later this year, Amazon said, it will bring more features to the sound bars, Dolby Atmos support, device control, HDMI switching, and far-field voice control.

Amazon wants to make it easier for TV makers as well as operators like Verizon and others to integrate Fire TV into their products through the Fire TV Edition program. At CES in 2017, Amazon launched the first Fire TV Edition smart TV. By the end of this year, Amazon executives said the program will include more than 150 Fire TV Edition models across more than 10 countries.

By making it easier for partners to build Fire TV devices, Amazon is following the playbook that helped establish Alexa is the leader in the nascent digital assistant market. Amazon announced several Fire TV partnerships today, including manufacturer Skyworth to build “turnkey” smart TV plans, VOXX Automotive and Garmin for further automotive development and the National Cable Television Cooperative to allow telecommunications companies to provide low-cost Fire TV devices to customers.

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