It's Time for Some U.S. Apple TV Marketing

Roku accounts for nearly half of the streaming media set top boxes sold in the U.S. in 2013, and Apple TV sales came in just over 25 percent. That sales gap can be squarely placed on Apple's shoulders because the company isn't adequately marketing the device to U.S. customers. It's time for that to change, or Apple faces losing the market to Roku, Google and Amazon.

It's time for some Apple TV adsIt's time for some Apple TV ads

Apple TV sales fell behind both Roku and Google Chromecast in 2013, according to data from Parks Associates. The research group said Apple sold just over 2 million units in the United States last year, while Roku sold about 3.88 million units.

While those numbers put Apple's streaming entertainment box in third place in the U.S., it's still the overall top seller worldwide. Over 20 million Apple TVs have been sold since the device was introduced, compared to Roku's 8 million.

The research group's data shows Roku is used 44 percent of the time when streaming content from set top boxes, compared to Apple TV at 26 percent. Park Research director Barbara Kraus said,

Roku has always had a close association with Netflix, the largest source of video downloads, and currently offers more than 1,700 channel apps as well as a choice of models with different features and price points, all of which appeal to consumers' purchasing instincts.

Apple TV, however, is available in a single model with limited channel options compared to Roku. The implication from Parks is that the larger selection of devices and content channels is more appealing to U.S. customers.

Google's Chromecast saw a strong launch selling as many units in six months as Roku did throughout all of 2013, but usage hasn't kept up. The number of TV viewers still using their Chromecast has been steadily declining, which bodes well for competitors, but doesn't mean Google is out of the game.

Apple's weaker position in the U.S. comes from a failure to properly promote Apple TV, according to Ms. Kraus. "Apple has not committed support and promotion to its Apple TV product line in the U.S., and its sales reflect this fact," she said.

That could change now that Amazon is pushing to become a stronger player in the streaming content market. Ms. Kraus said that could be the catalyst Apple needs to start promoting Apple TV in the U.S.

The group projects streaming media devices will be in 25 percent of U.S. homes by the end of 2015, and sales will hit the 50 million mark by 2017. That's a big opportunity for all of the companies with a hand in this game.

Apple TV may still be the big name worldwide, but that could change as Google's Chromecast becomes available in more countries, and Amazon pushes more content to its Kindle and Fire customers. With a proper marketing campaign and a refresh that adds more features, Apple could reverse Roku's U.S. lead and keep other competitors from catching up. If not, Apple TV could go back to being just a hobby for the company -- at least in the United States.

[Some image elements courtesy Shutterstock]