Time to Trade in Your Roku, Chromecast, Fire TV for Apple TV

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Helen Sloan/HBO/APHBO Now, with its hit "Game of Thrones" will be an Apple TV exclusive.
The battle to be the set-top device fueling your home theater's streaming experience just got more interesting. Apple (AAPL) made two big announcements last week that should help boost sales of Apple TV.

The first game changer is that the consumer tech giant is slashing the price of Apple TV by 30 percent, going from $99 to $69. This will make the video streaming device more competitive with cheaper rivals. The other big announcement is that Time Warner's (TWX) HBO Now -- the premium movie channel's first standalone digital offering -- will be offered exclusively through Apple TV.

The Apple TV announcements may have been overshadowed by the Apple Watch unveiling, but there's no denying that Apple can stand to make up some ground in the push for home entertainment.

Reality Television

The original Apple TV hit the market in 2007. It was too early, and the hard drive-packing devices were too expensive, with a starting price of $299. Apple cut the price by $70 a few months later, and that still wasn't enough.

Apple finally seemed to get it right in 2010 when the second generation of the device hit the market at $99. Between support for leading third-party applications and the iTunes library of digital video purchases and rentals, it seemed as if Apple would corner this market. It didn't happen. Pioneer Roku became aggressive with its price cuts, and Google's (GOOG) (GOOGL) Chromecast and Amazon's (AMZN) Fire TV Stick followed with dirt cheap streaming gadgetry.

Amazon had originally rolled out Fire TV last year, a $99 device that raised the bar by incorporating a remote with voice recognition and the ability to play games. Amazon followed with the $39 Fire TV Stick a few months later, in time for the holidays and ready to battle the $35 Chromecast.

Apple TV at $69 isn't going to be enough to compete with the other gadgets at roughly half that price, but then we have the HBO Now wildcard to consider.


HBO isn't cheap. It's only available in this country to folks on top of existing cable and satellite television subscriptions, making it even more expensive. HBO's flagship streaming service -- HBOGo -- is only available to folks already paying for the premium service.

Bowing to pressure, HBO announced that it would be rolling out a stand-alone streaming service later this year that wouldn't require an existing subscription. Last week it announced that the platform -- HBO Now -- would launch exclusively on Apple products next month.

We're not talking about total exclusivity here. We learned on Monday that cable provider Cablevision (CVC) will make HBO Now available to its broadband customers who don't have cable deals. It's a smart way to reach out to cord-cutters who still rely on the company for Internet connectivity. However, Apple's exclusivity in the realm of streaming boxes will make it a compelling choice for fans of "Game of Thrones" and "True Detective."

It won't stop here. The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Apple is in talks with major networks to roll out a digital television product along the lines of Sling TV. This could be another big reason to warm up to Apple TV, taking advantage of the new $69 price to bring your home theater into the digital age with a platform on the rise.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple and Google (A and C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Want to make 2015 your best investing year ever? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
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