Why Did Amazon Drop the Fire TV Stick to $34.99?

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It’s the Labor Day holiday weekend and that means that retailers have rolled out hundreds of promotions and sales to attract customers who have settled in for a 3-day stretch of doing not much. And if idle hands are the devil’s workshop, Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) is offering consumers something to do that can turn that idleness into profits for Amazon.

The e-commerce giant is promoting its own devices this weekend, with a Fire TV Stick selling for a $5 discount at $34.99, a 13% savings from the regular price. Amazon’s Fire TV device and remote control is selling for a 15% discount to the regular price of $99.99, and Amazon Tap, the voice-controlled, portable Bluetooth speaker is selling for $99.99, a 30% discount from the $129.99 regular price.

Is Amazon holding a clearance sale on its own products? Not likely. Far more likely is that Amazon is following it’s well-established pattern of seeding devices to the market that are fully functional only if consumers buy something else from, well, Amazon preferably. The Tap portable speaker, for example, can connect to Amazon’s Prime Music as well as Spotify, Pandora, and others, but not Apple Music. Amazon hopes buyers will subscribe to its $99 a year Prime service.

A more interesting possibility, though, is related to the Fire TV Stick. Just last week Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) and Google added the company’s Cast feature to the Chrome browser. Now Cast is not as robust as the Fire TV Stick, but the basic functionality is the same: use one device to stream content to another.

At the moment the $34.99 price for a Fire TV Stick gives users access to thousands of video channels and services such as Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO Now, Hulu, and others by enabling users to stream digital content to a TV equipped with the stick.

Google Cast does the same thing with a dongle (Chromecast), but LG Electronics has just introduced a 34-inch Cast-enabled monitor for $699 that won’t require the $35 Chromecast dongle. Netflix is already Cast-enabled, so a Cast-enabled TV does not require a dongle from Amazon or Google to let users stream the video from their mobile devices to the TV screen. It’s not a huge dollar savings, but it is one less thing to dink around with and that’s worth something, right?