Television has been a staple of the American household for nearly three generations. Hit the power button and the last channel you were watching appears almost instantaneously, whether the TV signal is coming from an "off-air" antenna (increasingly rare), satellite TV, or your local cable provider.
According to Nielsen, those of us who rely on cable for our daily TV fix have an average of 189 channels at our disposal, yet we watch only 17 of those channels. What gives?
For decades we've had no choice but to buy TV by the bundle - dozens of cable channels packaged together at one not-so-low price - with few, if any, à la carte options to get only the channels we want. As a consequence, we wind up paying - $90 a month on average - for a hundred some-odd channels we never watch.
Of course, all that is changing as television undergoes radical change thanks to - what else? - the Internet. Unless you've been living on a remote island, then you know video streaming is coming on strong. Very strong. Over the past several years, Netflix has amassed more than 30 million streaming subscribers in the U.S., and Roku has sold 10 million streaming media players. Meanwhile, Apple has sold 20 million Apple TVs worldwide.
There's no doubt that streaming is here to stay. But is it the future of TV? It would seem so. Here are seven reasons why:
1. Content delivery options continue to grow. Americans who are fed up with exorbitant cable rates now have many ways to access favorite programs without spending a bundle. Apart from streaming powerhouse Netflix - which charges $8.99 a month for unlimited streaming - options include Hulu, Amazon Instant, Vudu, and M-Go, to name just a few.
2. Devices allow users to take content on-the-go. In today's tech-infused mobile society, people want to watch what they want, when they want, and where they want. Streaming services make that possible via smartphones, tablets, and laptops as well traditional TV.
3. A la carte options are emerging. HBO, in partnership with Amazon, is launching a stand-alone streaming service in 2015, a move that will make coveted HBO content available without a cable or satellite subscription. A day after HBO announced its plan, CBS launched the CBS All Access streaming service, which includes live programming, for $6 a month. Expect other content providers to follow suit.
4. Connected TVs are becoming the standard. TV companies are offering a growing number of "smart TVs" featuring Internet connectivity and apps for Netflix and other video streaming services.
5. Streaming media players are growing in popularity. Devices that convert ordinary TVs into "smart TVs" are gaining ground. The most noteworthy models of late come from well-established companies: Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast (Google).
6. Top-rated shows are no longer the exclusive province of cable TV. The popularity of original programming from Netflix (House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black, etc.) and, more recently, Amazon (Alpha House, Transparent) signals the beginning of a new paradigm.
7. "Binge-viewing" is increasingly the way we watch TV. The availability of on-demand streaming has fostered the practice of binge viewing. Fire up Netflix, pick a series (and season), and sit back to enjoy one episode after another, uninterrupted and in chronological order (if so desired). No more waiting. No more commercials. The viewer is totally in charge.
If you have yet to dip a toe into the streaming waters, there has never been a better time to do so.
To learn more about the latest home automation and entertainment options, consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.