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AOL will attempt to light the way for free movie streaming   (Photo credit: Jason Persse)

While one major news item dominates discussion around the future of streaming TV, several smaller announcements are demonstrating just how competitive the field has become.

Throughout the week – and, indeed, the year as a whole – new services and content partnerships have been flowing out into the online space.

Across the technology and more traditional broadcast media, almost every big name brand has announced some form of toe-dipping in the waters of on-demand streaming.

 

Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff

It’s hard to tell exactly who will come out on top of all this experimentation, partly because it’s still somewhat early in the innovation growth cycle (no longer in the early adopter phase, perhaps, but not long out of it).

But the other factor muddying the water is the sheer number of players, and plays being made.

Let’s look at this week’s announcements alone:

  • AOL partners with Miramax – A streaming movies play with the distinction of being one of the few free to view options for major movies. AOL will test an ad-supported model.
  • Amazon cuts exclusive deal with HBO – Adding HBO programming to Amazon’s existing on-demand services, mostly benefiting its Prime service subscribers.
  • AT&T invests $500 million to produce streaming content – More preparation than reality, for the moment, but the involvement of the second largest cellular provider in the U.S. introduces a new element to what we might start to call “the Online Entertainment Wars.”
ND Press

Different content across different devices (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three different providers, three different approaches to bringing different on-demand viewing options to different devices… spot a common theme?

Throw in Yahoo Screen (which is being pushed hard and offers ad-supported, short form content and reporting), broadcaster apps, individual channel sites streaming full TV shows to desktop devices, and of course the relative veterans of Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu, and we’re left with a frankly bewildering selection.

 

Buried in Choices

The main challenge for consumers is going to be negotiating all of these options. Everything is available somewhere, but finding it is subject to the terms and conditions of those supplying the content. The viewer may need an annual membership, a monthly subscription, access via another provider such as a cable or cellular service contract, or perhaps just the patience to sit through a series of ads.

Privacy Net recently wrote about entertainment 3.0 being the sum of reliability and accessibility. Any service setting out to win this race will probably have to add another quality to those: quality. The content offered needs to be of a high enough standard that viewers can find what they want quickly and easily.

The current trend towards fragmentation is going to make for an  intriguing competition, but surely only a few content providers will be standing as consumers begin to narrow down their viewing sources? Only time will tell, but we’ll have plenty of programming to keep us entertained along the way!

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