Author(s): Trevor Pardee
Viewing television online has become much more prevalent over the past few years as consumers want to watch what's relevant to them when it suits them and at a lower price.
Media and telecom companies want to avoid cannibalizing their current offerings, so they've been mostly reluctant to offer attractive online services. However, in part because of the success that Netflix has experienced, this is quickly changing.
Hulu is the only legal place online to watch the newest content from major US networks; but even its premium Hulu Plus service has advertisements, making it less appealing than cable TV to some viewers, as ads can be skipped when watching cable broadcasts recorded on a DVR. This may change in the fall as Hulu is considering offering a slightly more expensive ad-free version of the service.
The HBO Now service doesn't require a cable subscription to purchase. This has been a smart move that utilises the popularity of programming like Game of Thrones, as well as offering a legal solution to viewers who can't or won't pay for a full cable package.
Sports remain very difficult to watch affordably online, although things are changing here, too. Thanks to a settlement of an anti-trust class action lawsuit against the NHL, next season hockey fans will be able to purchase a lower-cost single-team package. This is a step in the right direction, although there are still local market blackouts, making the service useless to many fans, including me. Go Sharks!
Even though content rights holders have dragged their feet in offering attractive streaming options, they are starting to recognise the economic viability of appealing to how people want to watch TV. Progress may be slow, but content producers are heading toward better products for cord-cutters. We predict more content owners will join the likes of Netflix in launching stand-alone online video services.