Will Apple’s own content delivery light a fire under its TV sales?

Will Apple’s own content delivery light a fire under its TV sales?

Posted 12:04 PM ET

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is developing its own content delivery network, which might be just what the doctor ordered for its flagging Apple TV set-top box sales.

Market research firm Strategy Analytics on Tuesday said Apple’s TV sales growth has slowed significantly this year in the face of increased competition from the likes ofAmazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL).

Apple’s market share in OTT (over-the-top) video streaming has dropped to 27% from 38% in 2012, says Strategy Analytics in a report released Tuesday.

The research firm forecasts that global OTT streamer unit shipments will top 35 million in 2014, up from about 15 million in 2012 and about 24 million last year.

Apple quietly launched its own CDN last week, according to a blog post at StreamingMedia.com by Dan Rayburn, a Frost & Sullivan analyst.

Apple has been a customer of CDN leader Akamai Technologies (NASDAQ:AKAM), whose stock slipped late last week, apparently on this report. Apple will still use Akamai’s CDN, analysts say, as it builds up its own capabilities.

“While Apple will probably never completely move away from third-party CDNs, like Netflix(NASDAQ:NFLX) did, they will rely less on third-party CDNs over time, just like we have seen with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), (Google’s) YouTube and others,” Rayburn wrote.

Rayburn says Apple is working with major Internet service providers, including cable TV firm Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), to connect its CDN to their broadband networks. It’s not clear if Apple is paying Comcast an interconnection fee, as Netflix agreed to do this year.

Aside from delivering iTunes and iCloud content as well as software upgrades to iOS users, Apple aims to provide improved streaming offerings for its TV products, analysts say.

But while Apple reportedly works on a next-generation TV set, Google and Amazon seem to be gaining traction with their streaming products, and older rivals such as Roku also are prospering.

Google last week said in a blog that Chromecast users have hit the cast button more than 400 million times. Google hasn’t disclosed how many of the $35 Chromecasts it has sold. The product is a video streaming adapter that people use to show Internet video on their TV sets.

Amazon, meanwhile, on Monday said it had doubled the number of apps for its Fire TV box, including the WatchDisney channel, Animal Planet Live and MLB.TV.

And in gaming, Amazon says it now has an exclusive to “Flappy Birds Family,” a version of the game pulled from mobile Android platforms last year.

Strategy Analytics says Apple is losing ground because of it lacks features like voice control, gaming support and an open app store.

Eric Smith, a Strategy Analytics analyst, says Apple TV needs a boost.

“The next-generation Apple TV would be revolutionary if Apple’s negotiations with service providers like Comcast clear the way for 4K video delivery or integrated pay TV and OTT delivery through a single box,” he said in the report.

Apple stock was down a fraction in the stock market today, near 95.


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