Consumers embrace new (and cheaper) ways to watch TV

New ways to watch TV (Photo: Thinkstock)

If you're a fan of TV, then you're likely aware that TV has changed dramatically over the course of the last decade. Gone are the days of bunny ears being our sole method of accessing TV, and in are TV-viewing options via the Internet.

In some cases, consumers may not even need to pay for TV service. As long as you have access to the Internet, you can simply log onto a network's website and stream your favorite TV shows for free. Unfortunately, if your favorite TV show is on a premium cable network, you'll have pop open your wallet to get access. But here's the good news: Thanks to the evolution of TV, access to TV doesn't have to come at such a high cost anymore.

"The evolution of pay-TV is picking up speed and it's clear that IP delivery is the end game," says Caitlin Spaan, vice president of marketing at Ooyala, a company that provides online video technology products and services.

Spaan believes that delivering content over a network "allows service providers to interact with their customers, to deliver a more personalized experience and, frankly, to change as the market demands."

If you haven't been keeping up with the latest TV innovations, here's what coming your way...

Cloud-Based TV Service

Last month, Sony announced their plans to test a cloud-based TV service that will include live television channels, on-demand TV shows, and digital video recorder capabilities.

To be clear, Spaan says cloud-based TV services already exist in the form of Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime, where you can download already-aired TV shows and movies. However, Sony is looking to test something entirely different later this year.

According to Spaan, their service will be a virtual paid TV service - similar to standard Comcast or AT&T U-verse cable services.

"The service will deliver hundreds of live linear channels, including sports and episodic TV to customers, no matter where they live," Spaan says.

How will this change access to television?

"If Sony can provide a full TV service, with video on demand, live linear, sports and everything that, say, a Comcast package provides, the ease of access, portability, and the ability to easily change packages online will be a hit with consumers," Spaan explains.

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Binge-Watching via Netflix

When it comes to watching TV, we're used to waiting a full week for new episodes to air. A full TV season typically starts in October and runs until April or May, give or a take a month. Cable companies and TV networks have us hooked for a good chunk of the year - waiting patiently for the newest character and plot developments to unfold.

Thanks to Netflix, that's all changing. Netflix, which charges a subscription fee of just $7.99 a month, releases the entire season of their original shows all at once and according to recent consumer data, viewers are loving it.

In fact, after the hit Netflix drama series, "House of Cards," released its second season in February, 2 percent of subscribers on U.S. broadband networks watched all 13 episodes of the season over the course of the first weekend.

This is a clear sign that viewers want their episodes in bulk, and with Netflix at the helm of TV binge-watching, viewers no longer need to play the waiting-game - at least for Netflix original shows. How will cable and satellite providers compete? We'll just have to see.

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Online Video Streaming of Live Events

Access to live sporting events has long been a downfall for online streaming. Sporting events simply weren't accessible to stream, until recently.

Now don't get too excited, live games of some sports like basketball and football are still unavailable unless you pay for the added subscription. However, there is progress.

Take, for example, free online streaming of this year's Super Bowl via Fox Network, and more than 1,000 hours of live Winter Olympic coverage on

According to experts, streaming access to live events will soon ramp up. This increase is due to consumers who are eager to watch events from a variety of connected and mobile devices, given the proliferation of screens, says Mark Fisher, vice president of marketing and business development at Qwilt, an online video delivery system company.

In addition, Fisher says that live streaming has another major benefit: It "encourages social network engagement through services like Twitter and Facebook, and that dramatically enhances the experience when compared to traditional passive consumption through a cable TV broadcast."

Of course, it's not just users who benefit from live streaming. According to Jonathan Weitz, partner at IBB Consulting, a consulting firm that works with cable networks, cable companies are offering live streaming services "because they add value to the traditional TV package and make subscriptions a continued solid investment for subscribers."

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TV Everywhere

The concept of "TV Everywhere" is exactly as it sounds. It's the ability to watch TV from anywhere.

"Consumers are adopting mobile devices as both primary and secondary TV screens at an increasing rate; but they're not necessarily abandoning the TV either," says Spaan.

As a result, TV providers are now offering packages that include streaming privileges, allowing subscribers to watch their pay-TV from anywhere - whether at work, the airport, or a coffee shop.

Consumers are getting used to services that let them log in with their cable or satellite account credentials and accessing content from a variety of networks on their smart devices, Weitz explains. And as a result, a standalone TV is no longer enough for most households.

Examples of operators already doing this include Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cablevision - all of which have mobile streaming apps for their subscribers, says Weitz.

And this trend will only grow as new technology comes into play. Weitz explains that TV Everywhere "is happening as consumers buy more devices that are capable of displaying high quality video content anywhere the consumer goes."

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