Roku (teaser 001)

A lot has changed since a Frost & Sullivan Consumer Video Devices Market report last August determined that Apple’s $99 Apple TV was the most-used set-top box in terms of content streaming, owning a whopping 56 percent share of streaming device sales, more than twice the share of the #2 Roku, which took 26 percent share of sales.

A month later, Roku said its set-top box was more popular for streaming than Apple TV and now a report from researcher Parks Associates reveals that a gap between Roku’s and Apple’s device is widening…

Survey data reported by CNET indicates that Apple’s device remains a distant second in both usage and hardware purchases.

In US households last year, nearly half of all purchases of set-top boxes — small electronics that stream online video and music on your TV — were Rokus, and it remains the device with the greatest usage among people who stream media to their TVs, according to a report from researcher Parks Associates Wednesday.

Specifically, 44 percent of US broadband households that own a streaming-media box used a Roku the most versus 26 percent for the Apple TV, an eighteen-point difference. By comparison, last year the difference was thirteen points so the gap between Roku and Apple is definitely widening.

“Roku’s 46 percent of 2013 US set-top purchases was 20 points ahead of Apple TV, after being 16 points up the year before,” CNET adds.

Throw Google’s $35 Chromecast into the mix and the Apple TV slips to third place.

As per GigaOM, Chromecast has surged past the Apple TV in 2013. With 3.8 million Chromecast units sold last year versus two million Apple TVs, Google’s inexpensive HDMI dongle was the nation’s most popular streaming device.

As for Roku’s rise, it’s due to multiple factors.

For starters, Apple continues to treat the Apple TV as a hobby project. The company is not actively advertising the $99 media-streaming box that hasn’t received a significant hardware refresh for more than two years now.

More importantly, there are more than 1,700 channel apps for the Roku device versus just a handful of channels found on the Apple TV. Keep in mind that Apple still does not allow third-party downloadable apps for the Apple TV.

Roku’s close association with Netflix, a choice of models at different prices and good marketing are all contributing factors cited by Park’s Director of Research Barbara Kraus.

All told, Parks projected more than one out of four US households will have a streaming media player by next year. As for global sales for streaming media players, these should hit the 50 million mark by 2017, hitting US penetration in excess 38 percent.

It’s widely believed that Apple’s living room ambitions are bigger than meets the eye. Rumor has it that an Apple TV App Store is in the works, as is a new Apple TV hardware with speedier chips, a revamped interface, a new controller for gaming and more.