I'm prepared to make a bold prediction for 2015. It will be the year that online video streaming for TV will finally go main stream. Bold - isn't it? How can I be this confident (only 6 weeks into the year... but Chinese New Year was just yesterday). Well, on this blog I have written about this possibility, the last domino being the announcements late last year from HBO and CBS that they would offer paid subscriptions to their content "Over the Top" (OTT) on channels that can be accessed on devices like Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple TV. I chronicled the Aereo case, right from the beginning. And as I shared in my post a couple of months ago, those recent announcements revealed a lot about why this fight went all the way to the Supreme Court. Yes - the industry had read the tea leaves, and knew that the future would be in internet TV. They were all developing these options behind the scenes and Aereo had beaten them to the punch (saying nothing of making money off their content without paying them).
So what's new in 2015? What makes this THE year? Well, the announcement from Dish about Sling TV at CES in early January was a huge step. This is the first of its kind OTT offering by a cable or satellite provider - an unbundled group of 14 channels streaming on Roku and similar devices. And the craziest thing about it? The channels are quality - including ESPN, HGTV, and AMC (coming soon)! It became available nationwide Feb 9 and the basic core offering is only $20 a month with no commitment needed. There are commercials (national only) and limited DVR-like rewind/fast-forward capability (no recording of shows though). For all intents and purposes, a la carte TV is here! And it came via streaming just like I thought!
Also, Sling TV is not the only option for this. There are others like Social N that are making headway and gaining stream - er, I mean steam (ok - enough puns). No doubt there will be more players, but the biggest question for customers and brands alike -
What has to happen to make streaming a success?
Well for one, access for fast internet speeds across the country. The current Net Neutrality battle and upcoming vote by the FCC next week will determine a lot about that. Net Neutrality is a complex issue that can be tough to explain. But in short, they are deciding to either view ISPs as utility companies (like phone or gas lines) that cannot determine what content goes through their cables or not. If not, then they can create fast lanes favoring content they create and slow lanes for content they don't like. That's a bad explanation for a complex issue you should just Google - but suffice it to say it has ramifications for consumers' internet speeds everywhere and the free nature of the internet. Speaking of Google, Google Fiber will certainly help increase speeds - only in certain markets, though.
The other thing that needs to happen to ensure TV streaming is here to stay is an overhaul to these interfaces. That's one thing Aereo had going for it - pretty good user experience on their website. And it easily integrated with their Roku App - thus I could use my laptop instead of the crappy 4-button Roku remote. I haven't really messed around with Sling TV's interface a whole lot yet, but it seems slightly better than most. And if you were one of the unlucky ones that tried to stream and rent The Interview over the Christmas holiday, then you know even Youtube does not have this down. If you click away from the movie, you can't easily find your place again - simple functionality like fast forward and rewind are way too hard if streaming on any device besides a laptop. They all have to figure this out to make it easier for more people to use it.
So now I hope you can see how I could make this bold prediction. Because, it has already happened. Welcome to the future. Happy streaming.