Why I'm Tuning Out Amazon's Fire TV

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There was plenty of speculation leading up to Wednesday's unveiling of Amazon's (AMZN) video streaming device, which we now know as Fire TV. The device will allow users to stream video to their television sets from Amazon's video library.

For weeks, the retail giant had hinted about its ambitions to take over the living room. But what company doesn't want to do the same? With existing streaming devices from Apple (AAPL), Hulu and Google (GOOG), the living room is already a crowded space. Everyone has planted a flag.

Given the relative success of Amazon's Prime movie service, which has gone toe-to-toe with Netflix (NFLX), we know (at the very least) Fire TV won't be a dud. CEO Jeff Bezos doesn't enter markets to lose.

The more pressing question is, can Amazon make any money? Bezos's "razor blade" business model has focused on building an empire with the hope of making the profits down the road. But each year "down the road" gets even more distant.

Given that the device will support external content from Hulu, YouTube and even Netflix, I don't get Amazon's thinking that Fire TV will be different enough to stand on its own. Google's Chromecast already looks too tough to beat.

What's more, Apple's recent deal with Comcast (CMCSA) to reinvent the way consumers watch television revealed the leverage that Apple's set-top box, currently known as Apple TV, will have in the living room. The reports suggest both Apple and Comcast are negotiating a joint streaming-television service. Apple has demanded special access on Comcast's public line to prevent congestion.

So, all things considered, how will Fire TV stand out when it's possible consumers have already settled in with Chromecast or video game consoles like Microsoft's (MSFT) Xbox and Sony's (SNE) Playstation consoles? These carry similar features. And let's not forget about Smart-TVs from the likes of Samsung (SSNLF) that can essentially do the same thing as Fire TV.

From what I've seen and read, Fire TV does have some nice features. The device has voice recognition to accept commands by speaking into the remote. The image storage, which is cloud-based and allows for an instant slideshow, is a nice tool to have. That it supports music apps and will offer complimentary free games will appeal to a lot of people. Fire TV's movie selections apparently also load much faster.

But let's be real -- none of these are game-changers, not to the extent Netflix or even Apple should be fearful. I had read where Fire TV was going to be revolutionary. Netflix most certainly was paying attention.

As I've said, Fire TV will support Netflix. The way I see it, this is yet another means for Netflix to gain subscribers, not lose them. Netflix ended the recent quarter with 44 million global subscribers and the company projects 4 million more will be added this fiscal year.

While Fire TV will most certainly cater first to Amazon's own digital library, it only comes back to an issue of who has the better content. Remember, even though Amazon has offered Prime to its customers for free, Amazon hasn't been able to steal away any Netflix subscribers. Prime is just not as sticky.

Amazon's approach has always been to sell devices at/near breakeven as it seeks to build a critical mass. It has that now. It has built it and people have come.

But it's time for investors to start demanding more profits. All told, Fire TV itself is meaningless. Where it matters to Amazon the most is in value. Other than throwing its name into a crowded market, I don't see what Fire TV brings to the table.

At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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