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Cable Technology Feature Article

October 23, 2014

Google Chromecast V.2 Due Soon

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

Google (News - Alert) Chromecast caused a big splash when it came out last year, as consumers flocked to the $35 streaming dongle that plugs into a TV’s HDMI port. Since then, users have sent 650 million requests to cast content via the gadget.

That’s according to Google’s vice president of product management, Mario Queiroz. Speaking at GigaOm’s Structure Connect conference, he also said that more than 6,000 developers are building more than 10,000 apps for the Google Cast ecosystem.

He also teased the second version of Chromecast. While no timing has been announced, Queiroz said that Google is “building an ecosystem of different endpoints,” and noted that other Chromecast devices will all be able to talk to each other.

“I can say we really want to bring the richness of this first screen–second screen experience to life,” said Queiroz, as reported by GigaOm. “The hardware capabilities will give us a better opportunity to take full advantage of a large screen paired with a small screen.”

Google is also launching a Backdrop feature for the existing Chromecast, which allows users to customize their TVs with photos from various sources. Also, users can use their phones to ask Chromecast about a picture that’s displayed on the television to get more information about it. Soon, a developer API will be released for Backdrop, paving the way for new functionality, like augmented reality apps and he like.

Parks Associates (News - Alert) noted in a recent survey that adoption of streaming media players has increased to nearly 20 percent of U.S. broadband households, up from 14 percent in 2012. As of the first quarter 2014, ownership of Chromecast is holding steady at approximately 6 percent.

However, monthly usage rates for the gadget were slightly lower than the last two quarters of 2013. The percentage of Chromecast owners who use the device at least monthly to view Web pages on a TV has declined from 76 percent in 3Q 2013 to 57 percent in 1Q 2014. Similarly, the percentage of Chromecast owners who use the device at least monthly to watch online video on a TV dropped from 78 percent to 73 percent.

This is in contrast to the firm’s October 2013 findings that daily usage was common, with more than a third (34 percent) of Google Chromecast owners streaming video content from Hulu (News - Alert) to their TV set every day, and 43 percent were doing so with Netflix, a feature heavily promoted during the device's introduction.

Nonetheless, Google, which recently took the wraps off of Android TV, is bound to keep plugging away at the video proposition, and a new version of the stripped-down dongle could give new life to the lower end of the market, as the $99 set-top arena gets more crowded.

"Streaming media players are starting to play a bigger role in home entertainment, but interest in new entry Google Chromecast is waning," said John Barrett, director of consumer analytics at Parks Associates. "Streaming media players, thanks to their ease-of-use, trail only game consoles and smart TVs as the most frequently used streaming media device in the home. By contrast, only about 22 percent of Chromecast owners say it is the most frequently used streaming device in their home.”

Google Chromecast is essentially nothing more than an Internet-connected flash drive that plugs directly into an HDTV to stream content from the cloud or other devices. Content-wise, it offers YouTube (News - Alert), Hulu and Netflix as the predominant options. And, viewers can use a smartphone, tablet or computer as a remote control.

Unlike, say, Apple (News - Alert) TV, Google Chromecast streams content running on iOS, Android, Windows and Google's own Chrome OS. So anyone can pull up a YouTube video from pretty much any device, and fling it to the TV.

Parks said that content providers typically license movies and TV programs for viewing on specific screens such as a TV, computer, tablet or mobile phone. Google’s screen-shifting device complicates matters by allowing the consumer to move content from one screen to the next.

"Google Chromecast is making it easier for consumers to circumvent screen restrictions," Barrett said. "For example, the content from the premium Hulu Plus service is available for viewing on a TV set, but content from the free Hulu service has been technologically constrained to computers. But among those watching Hulu monthly on a TV set via a Chromecast device, roughly 50 percent are using only the free services from Hulu."

The firm said that the tapering off of usage is likely due to consumer education around their options for streaming video to the TV. Smart-TV adoption has also now increased to over one-third of U.S. broadband households—potentially cannibalizing the use of options like Chromecast.

"As consumers add new devices to their home, the usage habits in the home change and adapt to the new device, its benefits and its capabilities," said Brett Sappington, director of research at Parks Associates. "Chromecast was introduced last summer. Given the low price, many consumers purchased one and began experimenting with it, producing high initial use. Over time, however, owners developed a better understanding of Chromecast’s usefulness and appropriate niche in the video-viewing environment. Some continue to use Chromecast regularly, while others are choosing different options to get online video to their televisions.”

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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