What does online streaming mean for the future of entertainment?
console) and ensuring that the format became absorbed into the mainstream – Microsoft’s HD DVD player add-on for the Xbox 360 wasn’t quite as successful, and died a death within 18 months of launch. Remember back when VHS cassettes were a thing, and then along came DVD and blew us away with its fancy optical format, instant rewinding, interactive menus and scene selection? For those of you too young to recall the shift away from analogue recording formats and towards digital, it was a pretty magical time for movie lovers.
The move to DVD was followed by a much-hyped “battle” for HD supremacy between HD DVD and Blu-ray, which ultimately turned into more of a damp squib as HD DVD slouched off into the distance with its tail between its legs, completely overwhelmed by the vastly superior storage space found on the competing medium.
An interesting footnote to that particular head-to-head is that Sony’s PlayStation 3 console was arguably the catalyst for the success of Blu-ray, offering the best value player for years (which also doubled as a pretty nifty gaming
THESE DAYS THERE’S ONLY ONE CABLE THAT MATTERS...
(AND IT’S NOT THE ONE YOU THINK)
These days, though, the battle for consumable media isn’t being fought in retail stores, but rather over the internet. The major steps forward in online infrastructure in the past half a decade or so has meant that streaming services are becoming the norm, rather than an exception reserved exclusively for a small group of nerds and geeks.
That doesn’t mean that the level of competition isn’t every bit as intense as it had been in the past - if anything things have been ratcheted up a dozen notches, with practically everyone now having the ability to either transmit or receive digital streams to and from an assortment of increasingly capable devices.
The growth in this fledgling industry has been nothing short of astronomical and, once again, we have the huge success of video game consoles like the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii to thank for the speed of growth. With around 250 million consoles sold to date between those three systems alone, streaming content has been able to move away from desktop and laptop computers and onto the living room TV in astonishing time.
The arrival of internet speeds capable of streaming full HD content has also proven to be a major factor in the mass market uptake of services like Netflix, CinemaNow, Crackle and many more, while the sports industry has also been quick to jump on board, with services like NHL GameCenter Live, MLS Live and MLB.tv offering fans unprecedented coverage of games throughout the season, and offering them a potential alternative to subscribing for an all-inclusive package that includes dozens of channels they’ll likely never watch.
And this is without mentioning the global powerhouses like YouTube, which have become as much a part of our day-to-day lives as the internet itself.
This has led to an increasing number of people around the world who are opting to “cut the cord”, as the act of cancelling your cable subscription is now known in certain circles. With so much variety available online for a fraction of the price of a monthly cable subscription (for less than $50 a month you can get yourself a 25MB TekSavvy DSL connection with 300GB of bandwidth and a Netflix subscription, compared to twice that for highend packages with the major Canadian cable/satellite providers) it’s easy to see the attraction in making the move, and Canadians have already shown an incredible willingness to harness the power of the internet for their personal entertainment.
In 2012 a report from Comscore showed that Canadians spend more time online than internet users in any other country globally, averaging around 45 hours per month per person, and every month 17.6 million Canadians visit YouTube – around 71 percent of total Canadian internet users.
In that same year, another study debuted at the Google Engage Conference in Vancouver showed that Canadians, on average, watch at least one hour of online video every day, with 44 percent of respondents claiming to have increased their consumption of streaming media in the 12 months previous. The average usage figures in this report were even higher than those in Comscore’s, at 68.8 hours per month, per internet user being logged. So why the fascination with streaming media over traditional broadcast mediums? We’ve already seen the huge savings that can be had in terms of price, but that comes at a cost; users often miss out on the latest episodes of their favourite shows, and must wait before services like Netflix acquire licenses. While that might prove to be a negative for some, many of Canada’s most popular networks offer free streaming on their websites for recently aired shows, which serves to counter the lack of some content on subscription-based streaming providers.
The major selling point for streaming media, however, is the fact it works around the viewer’s schedule. There’s no need to rush home to catch your favourite show any more – instead you know you’ll be able to view it at your leisure when you have time – and since there are no programming schedules to worry about, it’s easy to catch up on an entire season of a show over the course of a single, lazy weekend.
It goes beyond TV and movies, too, with online streaming services available for music and even video gaming, offering a huge level of versatility almost across the board, and as Smart TVs (TV sets with built in web browsers or app functionality) become more commonplace in the coming years, the trend is only set to continue on an upwards curve..
As things stand right now, relying on streaming media isn’t for everyone, but as our internet infrastructure continues to improve, it’s only a matter of time before “cutting the cord” is the norm, and not the exception.