Streaming wars, 2021: Battle of the buttons

Streaming services are fighting for real estate on TV remotes… and it’s getting messy.


January 20, 2021

In 2011, Netflix changed our lives — for better or worse — by introducing the Netflix button on remotes. They outdid themselves with the “skip intro” button, but that’s another conversation.

At last week’s CES, one trend stood out among all kinds of remotes: buttons.

More branded shortcut buttons than ever

Chinese smart TV maker Hisense introduced a remote with 6 branded buttons including Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, Tubi, Disney+, and Peacock.

Vizio “hold my beer’d” them with 7 buttons.

Streaming services dish out ~$1 per remote for the real estate, making the buttons a valuable revenue stream for TV manufacturers looking to offset a ~60% decline in TV prices between 2014 and 2019.

On the other end — with the smart TV market expected to grow 10.5% annually through 2025 — streaming services see the buttons as a means toward subscriber growth and increased viewership.

Now, with voice assistants, brands are fighting a 2-front battle

In 2020, for instance, LG was supposed to integrate Google Assistant and Alexa into its main mic button, but Google reportedly wasn’t down to share.

This meant that to access Alexa on LG’s remote, users had to long-press the Prime Video button — and no one likes a long-press.

This year, things changed: LG gave Google Assistant and Alexa dedicated buttons. But LG also gave its own webOS a button — meaning LG’s remote now has 3 separate voice assistant buttons.

Seems a little excessive if you ask us.

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