TV viewers haven’t had more choices to watch a common shows when and where they want. The first step in this direction began when networks began streaming episodes online at their official websites. Then services like Netflix’s Instant Streaming and Hulu became available allowing viewers to watch both current and past episodes of TV shows and movies from their computer. Companies like Amazon have entered the marketplace as well offering streamed movies and individual episodes on a pay-per-play basis. Internet-TV devices such as Boxee, Roku, Xbox 360, PS3, and Apple TV let users enjoy a number of these streaming options on their televisions for a better viewing experience. With most of these options cable companies are under great pressure to keep customers from dropping their TV subscriptions and watching online only. Cable companies are coming up with new ways to give their TV and Internet subscribers added value by letting them access exclusive content from their computers and mobile devices.
The past big leap cable companies made to keep viewers was the introduction of On Demand content for digital cable subscribers watch free streaming movies online. On Demand let people watch many network and cable shows independently schedule. By partnering with premium channels like HBO and Showtime, viewers can also watch movies each time they want so long as they are premium tier subscribers as well. Several cable providers also stream TV content to subscribers from the providers website as a way to keep customers eyes from Netflix and Hulu. With more and more outlets for television online cable must adapt and either equal or better what users will get elsewhere.
Whether from a poor economy and housing market or from online competition, cable companies have seen a slowing growth trend that they have to address. The next frontier for providers is the mobile space. The explosion of advanced phones, netbooks, and tablets such as the iPad have quickly changed peoples expectations of where they could view TV and movies. Netflix Instant Streaming has already been available as an app on the iPhone and iPad and rumored to soon be available on Android devices. Comcast has joined the trend by announcing the release of these Xfinity TV app for the iPad. Comcast cable TV subscribers can use the app to stream a sizable selection of network, cable, and premium content. Expect other cable providers like Charter and Time Warner Cable to follow suite soon. Another leverage point cable providers have is that their broadband infrastructure is carrying the bulk of online video traffic. Though they are limited by the FCC in how much freedom they have over pricing, more providers are looking at usage fees to offset the bandwidth expenses they incur, especially from customers who drop cable TV subscriptions and watch online exclusively. How every one of these rapid changes works themselves out in the end is hard to say. But something is for many, we will have more and more viewing choices in places that people couldn’t have imagined only a couple years ago.