Stream Pow­ered

TekSavvy Insider - - Contents - BY KYLE WHITE

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, 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 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.

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