It’s been on the horizon for several years, but cord-cutters could finally be celebrating 2015 as the year they move all media consumption online. With recent video on-demand service announcements from Apple and HBO, DISH Network’s Sling TV, and this week Sony’s new Vue service,
Add to these developments the rising popularity of existing streaming options like Roku, Chromecast, and Amazon’s Fire TV, and the tech-driven brave new world of television would appear to be here.
Of the various services and packages being unveiled, two consistent factors characterize the movement: 1) the lack of service contracts tying the consumer to a one or two-year subscription, and 2) the individual selection and smaller bundles of channels on offer, for a lower monthly fee. The latter is perhaps what has budding cord-cutters the most excited. Part of saying goodbye to a sprawling cable package, for them, is opting for only the channels or interest groups that they enjoy and paying only for those selections
Technology has coalesced quickly in recent years. Smartphones and tablets have developed enough processor power and connectivity to make them viable second viewing screens, while television sets have added many more ways to get online. Throw in services like Netflix and Amazon Prime’s video service, which are generally easier to view on mobile devices, and you have an ecosystem that seems ready for a flood of customized channels and services that cater to individual viewing
The trend is being embraced by some of the main players in the world of broadcasting, as they try to keep a foot in both viewing worlds to satisfy every type of customer. There are some who still enjoy the enormous choice and all-in-one benefits of traditional cable packages, for whom unbundling and cord cutting hold little appeal.
But for the new generation of viewer growing up with on-demand programming, seeking to stream what they want to the device they want to watch it on, traditional broadcasters are working on new ways to deliver their programming. In some cases that simply means an app to offer simple re-run streaming on different devices after they air. Others are experimenting with unlimited paid offerings of their own, such as CBS All Access which launched late last year.
All of these have been baby steps towards entertainment 3.0, however, when compared to the moves already being made this year.
Major brands are lining up with broadcasters to license the content they think will be most appealing to viewers and offer the most bang for their buck. Perhaps most importantly, Apple will enter the fray more significantly later this year. The Cupertino company has a tendency to accelerate the evolution of any product category it enters, and the high-spending demographic it will bring to VOD certainly has the power to take things mainstream.
While all of this competition is exciting for consumers, it’s important to remember that creators stand to win when more online viewers are brought into the ecosystem of legitimate, paid video streaming platforms. Scale is key to streaming revenues, and having some of the world’s biggest brands vying to pay for content to attract consumers holds significant potential for rights holders.
Which services end up winning will be interesting to observe, but what we really wish for is an efficient entertainment ecosystem that connects specific audience interest groups with the creative talent who can satisfy their viewing demands.