Smart TVs Are Still Dumb. Amazon’s Daniel Rausch Sees Fire TV Changing That

Daniel Rausch
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A smart TV may be the biggest technological investment you make in your home. Yet it’s not being used approximately 20 hours per day.

That strikes Daniel Rausch, VP of entertainment devices and services at Amazon, as an opportunity for the brand he oversees at the tech giant: Fire TV, which allows consumers to stream video to their living-room screen either in the form of small devices that plug into that screen or in the TV set itself, whether manufactured by a partner like Hisense or Amazon.

But to take advantage of all that unused screen time, Rausch doesn’t just want the 200 million Fire TV-branded devices and TV sets he’s sold to date worldwide to be the best portal for serving up Netflix or Disney Plus; he believes Fire TV can be the hub for a smart-home experience that does a lot more than just provide access to entertainment.

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“We’ve had this term ‘smart TV’ for so long, and really all that it ever got to for customers is sort of a TV that connects to the internet, has a so-so user interface, not really organizing your content for you,” said Rausch on the latest episode of the Variety podcast “Strictly Business.” “It should be helpful throughout the day. For example, you should you be able to see your calendar on it. Why wouldn’t you get suggestions about new content recommendations, or even recipes from your TV?”

Last month, Amazon announced expansion plans for Fire TV, including new sizes of the Fire TV Omni QLED Series lineup as well as its lowest-priced HDTV yet, the entry-level Fire TV 2-Series, which starts at $200 for the 32-inch model. In addition, the company said it is launching Amazon-built TVs in three new countries: the U.K., Germany and Mexico.

Fire TV devices, which are available to purchase in more than 85 countries, have been in the market for eight years. They compete for market share with a crowded list of tough competitors on both the TV side and for dongles, including Roku and Samsung.

Rausch also provided an update on another part of the Amazon business where he has oversight: year-old cloud-gaming service Luna. Though Google recently backtracked from this category with their own product, Stadia, he said Amazon is committed to leading the way as streaming takes over the landscape of gaming. “Customers are loving it, and we’re just excited to keep growing it,” Rausch said of Luna.

“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and SoundCloud.