Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Google's Chromecast is an easy and inexpensive way to turn a dumb television set into a smart device. Starting at $35, Google's puck-shaped dongle enables users to turn a TV into an external display for apps compatible with Chromecast. In the device's ecosystem, smartphones, tablets, computers and smart speakers become control points for TV, pushing Internet-based content to the living room.
Thousands of apps are compatible with "Chromecast built-in", or Google Cast, including HBO Go, Netflix, Sling TV, Spotify and YouTube. It's getting easier for households to cut the cable cord, replacing a set-top box with pucks, sticks and other things hanging out of a TV. And now not even the external accessory is needed. A rising number of television sets now come with Chromecast built-in. If Google's offering provided good value for money before, it's now getting more accessible with dozens of TV models from Vizio and Toshiba now shipping with the native ability to access content via the platform.
Earlier in 2016, Google released an update to its Chrome Web browser with Chromecast built-in, and the company recently began shipping its Google Home smart speaker with native support for Chromecast. It's possible to send content from an Android smartphone to a Google Home smart speaker, or from Google Home to a Chromecast-compatible television.
It's worth remembering that Google has been entering the content business on several fronts. It offers music streaming subscriptions through Google Play Music, allows ad-free access to YouTube content through YouTube Red, and it also provides movie rentals through Google Play Movies.
CCS Insight believes that Google's interest in premium content services will grow along with the number of hardware offerings compatible with Chromecast built-in. The technology is becoming a standard feature on devices from Vizio, the largest TV brand in the US, which was acquired by LeEco earlier in 2016.
For broadcasters, there should be a level of discomfort here. In addition to its own hardware portfolio, Google has a strong proxy in Vizio. This is in addition to a number of TV manufacturers using Android to power their smart TVs including, for example, Philips. For younger households looking to cut the cord, Google is making things painless. Using legacy definitions, the company is not a broadcaster, but the concept is getting fuzzy as streaming becomes a common means of accessing video. Google is treading upon the content territory of Amazon, Netflix and Spotify, and will likely intrude further into the business of traditional broadcasters.