Streaming device wars: Smart TV viewing time surges, dongles see first-ever decline

Google was the biggest winner in 2021, while Apple, Amazon and the console makers all saw their market share slip.


Dongles used to be the easiest way to get streaming onto TVs. Now, consumers turn to smart TVs with embedded apps instead.

Image: Roku/Protocol

The growing popularity of smart TVs is starting to have an impact on the usage of streaming dongles and other TV-connected devices: Global viewership of streaming devices declined by 2% between Q4 2020 and Q4 2021, according to a new report from streaming analytics company Conviva. Smart TVs saw their usage grow by 37% during the same time frame.

Not all device-makers were equally affected by the surge of smart TV viewing. Sony and Microsoft saw the biggest declines in streaming usage for their respective consoles, which were down 12% and 19% year-over-year, respectively. Streaming usage for Amazon’s devices was down 7%, while Apple TVs saw a decline of 1% year-over-year. Roku, on the other hand, saw 12% growth, while Google’s Android TV platform saw viewing hours grow a whopping 42% year-over-year.

“Everybody is in a hyper-competitive mode right now,” said Conviva President and CEO Keith Zubchevich. “You’re seeing a lot of market share shift because competition is increasing.”

Conviva Q4 2021 streaming dataStreaming device trends in 2021: Android TV, LG and Samsung gained, console-makers and Amazon lost.Image: Conviva

As in previous reports, Conviva once again observed huge regional differences. In North America, Roku was able to capture 41% of big-screen viewing time. However, in Europe and South America, Roku’s share was only 5%, pointing to continued challenges for the company’s international strategy.

Also worth noting: While Google has seen massive growth for its smart TV efforts, its global market share is still comparably small. Altogether, Chromecast and Android TV captured just 11.2% of global viewing hours.

Both Samsung and LG saw some significant gains in 2021, with global viewing hours up 27% and 36%, respectively. One major reason for this is the global chip shortage and its uneven effects on regional manufacturing. While Chinese smart TV makers were struggling to replenish empty shelves last year, their South Korean counterparts fared comparably better.

LG's and Samsung’s growth happens just as all eyes are on Asia in the streaming space: Netflix executives have been vocal about their desire to grow their market share in India, where the company reduced its price in December. Korea, on the other hand, has been a huge boon for Netflix, with “Squid Game” becoming the service’s biggest global success story to date last year.

Streaming patterns seem to be undergoing significant shifts in Asia as well. While mobile viewing has long been the primary consumption mode in Asia, TV-based streaming actually grew from 14% to 27% from Q3 to Q4 of 2021 alone — suggesting that the “Squid Game” effect may actually have long-lasting consequences in Asian markets that could ultimately benefit Netflix and services like it.

Conviva has gathered the data for its latest report with the help from a number of major streaming services, which have embedded the company’s analytics technology in their apps. The company’s total app install base is north of 4 billion, with 500 million viewers worldwide streaming 200 billion Conviva-tracked streams every year.


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Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

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Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

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The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

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Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

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