Google Chromecast: Turning the Connected TV Market Upside-down?

Alan Bullock
Aug 7, 2013

If it’s possible to disrupt a still-emerging market, Google Chromecast has the potential to do just that for Connected TV. Announced on July 24, Chromecast is a small HDMI stick with an even smaller price tag ($35) that adds Wi-Fi connectivity and HD video streaming to virtually any HD TV (or monitor with HDMI port).

The use of connected TV is growing slowly but steadily. Nearly 30% of respondents to InfoTrends’ 2013 U.S. Connected Devices Survey had a TV that was connected to the Internet, either with a built-in Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection or through an auxiliary device such as a Blu-ray player, game console, or digital media player.

Streaming Redefined: Unlike traditional connected TV solutions (can we even call this stuff “traditional” yet?), Chromecast does not have its own user interface. Instead, everything (including initial setup) is controlled from a mobile device or computer on the same Wi-Fi network. (Setup can also be accomplished with the Chromecast Android app.)

Contrary to some initial reviews, Chromecast does not, in most cases, actually stream content from a mobile phone, tablet, or computer. Rather, it functions as a slave to a Chromecast-enabled mobile app or Chrome browser (with free Chromecast extension installed), streaming whatever content it is instructed to stream. A subtle, but important difference.

Limited content at launch: For now, Chromecast content seems to be limited to Netflix, Google’s own YouTube, and Google Play apps for Movies and Music, plus whatever can be “cast” from Chrome browsers on Windows and Mac computers. Not a lot of options, but Google deserves credit for reaching a large base of potential users on day one.

More content on the way: A number of other popular streaming content apps are rumored to be supported soon, including Pandora, Hulu Plus, Vimeo, and HBO Go. Like the browser extension, the Chromecast SDK is also still in beta status. Once it is finalized, developers are likely to move quickly to add the “cast” icon to their mobile apps.

I expect that the coming surge in development of Chromecast-enabled apps will include established photo services, such as SmugMug, Shutterfly, and Flickr, as well as startups like Everpix, Woven, and NeroKwik–allowing their users to use Chromecast to view their online photos. Other services, such as Animoto, Blurb, and Pholium, where users can create multimedia shows and e-books from their photos and videos, will also be good candidates for Chromecast streaming, as will cloud storage services such as Dropbox, SkyDrive, and, of course, Google Drive, where many of those files are already backed up.

Challenges for other connected device vendors: For developers, it has to be considerably easier to add the “cast” icon to a few mobile apps than to build and support custom “channels” for a long list of streaming media players (not to mention smart TVs and connected Blu-ray disc players from virtually every consumer electronics brand). Despite the fragmented history of Google TV and the disaster that was Nexus Q, at just $35 Chromecast is bound to be successful enough to attract a significant number of developers and content providers–some of whom may decide to abandon other platforms that are less popular and harder to support.

InfoTrends’ Opinion: Chromecast is a fresh approach to Internet-connected TV and streaming content. It has obvious appeal to Netflix subscribers and frequent YouTube watchers, but those people already have streaming video solutions and are probably not the primary target market. Its price is low enough that it will be an impulse purchase for many consumers with even a passing interest in the technology. If it does not work well, however, with more content available soon, those same consumers are just as likely to set it aside as a $35 experiment gone bad, and that would be a shame.

One final random thought: I wonder if “HDMI switcher” has suddenly bubbled to the top of Amazon’s list of popular searches. I know I’m going to need one.

The Changing Digital Imaging Landscape: A Review of InfoTrends’ 2013 U.S. Connected Devices Survey examines consumers’ use of smartphones, tablets, and Internet-connected TV. It is available to clients of our Connected Imaging Trends service or from the InfoTrends report store. For more information, please contact Matt O’Keefe at or +1.781.616.2115.

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