Apple has long described its Apple TV as a “hobby.” And with sales of the set-top box not reaching anywhere near the numbers of Apple’s other iOS devices, that makes perfect sense.

But even though Apple treats it like a side project, the Apple TV has done fairly well. A new report suggests that Apple’s media hub has captured nearly a third of the market.

Market research firm Strategy Analytics¬†announced the results of its research report regarding “connected TV players” today. The research included several set top boxes including the Apple TV and the Roku Box, and the findings are pretty interesting.

“Apple is leading this nascent market, which it still considers a ‘hobby’. ” says Jia Wu, Senior Analyst at the Connected Home Devices (CHD) service. “As Apple prepares for its expected launch of smart TVs in 2012, rival platforms must accelerate their development plans to keep Apple from running away with the connected TV business, as it has done in smartphones and digital music.”

Apple is expected to sell over 4 million Apple TVs by the end of 2011, garnering 32% of the connected TV player market. Also, keep in mind that the next-generation Apple TV is rumored to be nearing completion, with features like a dual-core processor and Bluetooth support.

Not bad for a “hobby.”

[MacRumors]