TV viewers have not had more choices to watch their favorite 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 market 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 much better viewing experience. With all of these options cable companies are under great pressure to help keep customers from dropping their TV subscriptions and watching online only. Cable companies are discovering new ways to give their TV and Internet subscribers added value by letting them access exclusive content from their computers and mobile devices.
The last big leap cable companies made to help 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 on their own schedule. By partnering with premium channels like HBO and Showtime, viewers may even watch movies when they want provided that they’re premium tier subscribers as well. Several cable providers also stream TV content to subscribers from the providers website as a means to help keep customers eyes away from Netflix and Hulu. With an increase of and more outlets for television online cable must adapt and either equal or better what users can find elsewhere.
Whether from a poor economy and housing market or from online competition, cable companies have observed 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 are able to view TV and movies. Netflix Instant Streaming has already been available being an app on the iPhone and iPad and rumored to soon be on Android devices. Comcast has joined the trend by announcing the release of the Xfinity TV app for the iPad. Comcast cable TV subscribers can utilize the app to stream a large collection of network, cable, and premium content. Expect other cable providers like Charter and Time Warner Cable to follow along with suite soon. Another leverage point cable providers have is that their broadband infrastructure is carrying the majority of online video traffic. Though they’re limited by the FCC in simply how much freedom they’ve over pricing, more providers are considering 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 will work themselves out in the end is hard to say. But something is for certain, we will have more and more viewing choices in places that we couldn’t have imagined a couple years ago.