Friday, May 6, 2011

TV Watching Choices Are Changing

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBaseIf you can remember the days of 3 networks and black & white TV you are old. Before the days of the remote control, TV viewing choices were few. I remember those were the days where you watch one channel all night. There wasn't anything like channel surfing like we have today. If you were like me, you were to lazy to get up to change the channel. That's all over today.

Today our TV watching choices are throught he roof. We have DVR's, DVD's, Blue-Ray, HBO, TNT, ESPN, OnDemand, Pay-Per-View, HULU, and YouTube. We have more channels and more content to keep us busy. The delivery systems for all this content are also changing to. We can record TV for watching at a more convient time. We have web services that allow us to watch new network programing on demand whenever we want. We aren't forced to show up at a certain time to catch our favorite show.

As time goes by, everyones love for TV continues to grow. They love it. It's their companion, advisor, time killer, necessity, educator, social life enabler, child-minder, boredom-buster, stress-fighter, lullaby, and low-maintenance friend, among other things. It is little wonder that even in the era of the PC and the cell phone, the TV is one of the first pieces of technology most consumers purchase. Each year 1.3 billion households (source: Euromonitor) around the world watch an estimated 2,464 hours of television (source: Nielsen). This equates to a total of 3.9 trillion hours of television viewing each year! Significantly, the total time spent watching TV is still 25-times greater than the 156 billion hours people spent using the Internet in 2007 (source: Comscore 2007).

In the near future, traditional video and broadcast TV programming will begin to share screen space with a spectrum of personalized information, entertainment and social networking services, in addition to original content such as family videos and photos. The arrival of Internet-based programming and interactive IP-based services on TV will challenge the industry to find new ways to blend novel Internet-based usages into a seamless whole with traditional TV. Moreover, models of interaction must be transparent, with push-button ease-of-use.



With all these TV choices 2 candidates stand out. Hulu Plus and Netflix. First Netflix.


Netflix

Netflix completely revolutionized the DVD rental space when it debuted more than a decade ago. Over the last few years, the company has exerted more of its energies and resources into becoming the most visible subscription streaming service.

Featuring one of the largest streaming content libraries and capturing subscribers by the millions, Netflix is one of the big players in the streaming media space.

PC/Mac Access: Yes, using a web browser (requires Microsoft Silverlight), Windows 7 Media Center, Plex, orBoxee.

Mobile Device Support: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Windows Phone 7. Android is coming soon.

Connected Device Support: Roku, TiVo, the new Apple TV, Google TV, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and countless HDTV sets, Blu-ray players and other devices.

Price: Streaming only plans start at $7.99 a month

Selection: Netflix has an ever-expanding selection of TV shows and movies and the company has made it clear it isn’t afraid to open up its wallet to bring more streaming content to its compatible devices.

Our Take: At this point, one has to make an effort to find a new TV, Blu-ray player or set-top box that doesn't support Netflix. This, coupled with the new low-cost streaming only plan and the ever-increasing content library makes Netflix a winner. HD quality isn’t as sharp as on some other services and title availability can change without notice, but for catalog TV titles and a good selection of new and old films, Netflix is a winner.


HULU PLUS

When Hulu first hit the scene back in 2007, many scoffed at the idea that streaming TV shows in a web browser could work. If you ask Hulu’s backers — News Corp., NBC Universal, Disney and Providence Equity Partners — it’s possible Hulu has worked too well.

Hulu Plus was conceived as a way to not only monetize Hulu, but also provide a better selection of catalog content and official support for mobile devices, televisions and set-top boxes.

Hulu Plus only officially launched a few months ago, but already the company says it is having a positive impact on its bottom line.

PC/Mac Access: Yes, via Hulu.com and the Hulu Desktop application.

Mobile Device Support: iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Android support for select Android 2.2 devices is coming soon.

Connected Device Support: Roku, PlayStation 3, TiVo Premiere (soon), Xbox 360 (soon) and select HDTV and Blu-ray players from Vizio, LG, Panasonic, Sony, Haier and Samsung.

Price: $7.99 a month.

Selection: Good selection of current TV shows and some movies. Hulu Plus doesn’t feature every title from the regular Hulu.com, but it does feature more episodes of certain series, full back catalogs for some classic shows and offers users access to 720p streaming content for compatible programming. Many (but not all) Hulu Plus programs are served ad free.

My Take: Hulu Plus is a great choice for users who watch a lot of television, especially current shows. There is a significant amount of overlap between the content offered by Hulu Plus and Netflix, but Hulu wins for current episodes of hit TV shows. The iPad and iPhone apps are great and a growing number of devices are gaining Hulu Plus support. It’s worth checking out on your PC or Mac and is a good feature to look for when buying a connected TV, Blu-ray player or set-top box.



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