I stream more media than ever before. Nearly all the TV shows and movies I watch are streamed straight to my laptop or, via Apple TV, my home theater big screen.
I want more of that, especially since I’ve severed my cable TV subscription.
The options available are already formidable, and they’re growing — from satellite services like DirecTV to the latest video game consoles to streaming-capable TVs themselves.
My latest upgrade was a new Blu-ray player, one that, yes, plays all my little shiny discs and also gives me built-in Wi-Fi with a nearly intravenous connection to streaming-media and top video rental services such as Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Vudu HD (yes!), YouTube, Slacker, CinemaNow and podcast RSS feeds, plus a half-dozen more I’d never before even heard of (hello, Crackle and Blip.TV).
While I’m not yet using my Terminator 2 disc as a drink coaster, already I’m wondering how soon DVDs and Blu-rays will be as outdated as VHS tapes and The Ramones.
And given the video business news making headlines this month, 2012 is shaping up to be the year streaming goes from sideline option to mainstream mainstay:
VERIZON AND REDBOX TO NETFLIX: “IT’S ON!”
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Telecom giant Verizon and the disc rental kiosk company Redbox (owned by Coinstar) are joining forces to become a major player in online video streaming. The goal: to give the current 800-pound streaming gorilla, Netflix, some serious competition.
Slated to launch the second half of this year, this rebel alliance will offer streaming customers “subscription services and more” on multiple platforms such as smartphones and tablets as well as TVs.
That’s all good, as far as I can tell. I’m interested in anything that gives me more streaming options.
But here’s a question I can’t shake off: Given the amount of content already available on Netflix and Amazon, how will this new venture snag its own streaming rights to a competitive amount of movies and TV shows? Offering video consumers the option to watch live streaming tv online is an untapped niche, and a joint effort between Verizon and Redbox could add up to very competitive pricing.
I’ll hang on for an answer until the Verizon-Redbox partnership shows us what it’s got.
“NOT SO FAST,” ROARS AMAZON + VIACOM
Holy crap! With the Verizon-Redbox announcement still warm, here stomps another Godzilla-Rodan team-up allied in titanic battle against Netflix (who on the big screen in my head is played by King Ghidorah).
Amazon.com’s already significant catalogue of streaming video is set to expand by about 2,000 titles after a new digital video license agreement between the online retail behemoth and Viacom.
According to Amazon, subscribers to the Amazon Prime Instant Video streaming service will have access to more than 15,000 titles available on over 300 different devices. The new expanded selection will include TV shows from MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, TV Land, Spike, VH1, BET, CMT and Logo.
I confess that streaming “Jersey Shore” to any of my screens, large or small, could give me nightmares about taking a James Cameron-style flamethrower to my entire home media system. Nonetheless, I’m seeing big plusses here. I’m not yet convinced there’s such a thing as too much.
In a recent Netflix letter to shareholders (PDF), the company didn’t sound too worried:
“Both Amazon and Hulu Plus’s content is a fraction of our content, and we believe their respective total viewing hours are each less than 10% of ours. In the case of Hulu Plus, subscribers have to pay for the service ($7.99) and still watch commercials (unlike, commercial-free Netflix).”
However, the letter also voices expectations that the Amazon streaming video service might deliver a two-fisted blow by also offering “a standalone [non-Prime] service at a price less than ours.”
In response, Amazon says they currently have no plans for a standalone streaming service. (My Annie Hall-style subtitle caption: “But hey, thanks for the suggestion.”) So whether or not that’ll happen, or whether it’ll be Amazon’s equivalent of Godzilla’s atomic fire breath, that’s one more thing we’ll just have to watch unfold.
ROWING GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM?
Both of these new tag-team challenges to Netflix are telling me that 2012 is when the whole digital media delivery landscape gets really interesting. For us consumers watching from our couches, the playing field is going fast into game-changing mode. Again.
I’m telling you, this stuff is just getting started.
Here’s another question, this one for you: What are your own experiences with streaming? What do you stream, how much, how has it impacted your TV choices, your movie-watching, your music, or your game-playing? What do you see coming and how might it change the way you “do” your entertainment?
I’m not just curious, I’m looking for suggestions. Let’s see where this conversation goes.