If I want to stream, do I Ruminate or Excogitate?: That is the Question

 

In a recent blog I ruminated for awhile about what to do about viewing television. After a few visits to websites to gather information about this issue, it turned to excogitating about what the whole idea of viewing means anymore in order to look at the burgeoning number of services attempting to enter, influence and dominate the market in viewing the moving image. As a person who loves much of the idea of 19th century’s simplicity, this has led to the confounding elements found in the 21st century digital reality in which most of us live, save those forest-dwellers in Indonesia. It seems even the Bushmen, The San, of South Africa, are succumbing to life in the modern age, though not necessarily by their own design. Many are wearing Western clothes and know what is happening elsewhere via their cell phones.

For us American Baby Boomers, though, the beginning of the 21st century is sort of a midpoint in lifestyle changes. Ruminating on this comment leads one towards his/her memories introduced in that earlier blog about how we once viewed content that featured movie images and sound, called them television shows or cinema movies. That was in the analogue era, when there was a physical element produced and recorded, with some of it transmitted via airwaves to a receiver in a home. As mentioned in that blog, cable television used those same signals or recordings and passed them on to paying subscribers, igniting a whole new business model that we have all utilized to some degree. In the 21st century we will need to inaugurate a different term, perhaps a new one, to describe the content we view in this age. streaming optionsWe’ve ventured into digital, CGO, Virtual, Augmented and other enhancements.

Within that earlier era that was the object of my rumination, there were reel-to-reel, speakers connected by wires to amplifiers each of varying quality and costs, vinyl, 8 track, music cassettes, video cassettes, 8mm-16mm-35mm or 70mm film, BW or color slides and filmstrips and many other various media options to store and project content. Someone paid for the capturing and developing, then there were the issues of distribution. As I mentioned before, that was either through the cinema or home television until the cassette era, when Virgin, Blockbuster and all the other specialty stores carried options for buying or renting physical objects that stored the media. Today’s generation of youth look at that time period as though it is a BW version of cusackJohn Cusack’s High Fidelity film (which today you can view on iTunes). They cannot imagine owning something in that physical version and falling prey to the vagaries of the markets those items produced. The hard copies are not gone, but they are not the driver of markets, culture and lifestyle anymore. Analogue is a conscious choice to be retro, or perhaps to choose a quality that is irrelevant to most of the population. If you still have a collection, the time is running out on the device you use to view it. But that is another blog concept.

Today is the digital world. In that world, there is no longer a need for a physical ownership, though that is still possible. In fact, proprietary ownership is an issue in and of itself. If there is an icon on a screen, can’t I just click it and “own” it? CDs and DVDs are but two examples of “old fashioned” purchasable formats for digital content. You can also download digital content onto some format that could be saved in a variety of ways, but good luck at keeping track of where you ‘filed’ it. Plus, distributors hate that you can download content and they have devised streaming methods that make recording difficult for us normal non-nerds. Yet, again, for this year, those are dying fast and the next generation is already tossing those onto the High Fidelity ash heap. If you are like most of us, you are trying to figure out what the pie is, how it is growing, what the new slices look like and are named, what is of quality (or not), how can you access it, who is in control of the content, how much will it cost to view it and when and where that will take place.digital platform

In this world the really big question becomes: Is content or distribution going to be king? In other words, is it more important to be a creator and aggregator of content – or is it more important to have the distribution path into a consumer’s home and into a consumer’s digital device (not necessarily the TV)? Some people, like Jeff Bezos, are trying to be both. In order to play this game, you need to understand what happens when something is digitized and be aware that ‘owning’ digital information is a very ephemeral concept now. It seems most of us are only renting huge portions of our lives, or perhaps it could be stated that we can now store our moments digitally in much larger quantities than the 19th century versions of letters, diaries or sketches that served the purpose of enhancing our memories as we aged. Today’s lives are even defined by many for themselves through a digital device. But, again, I digress into another blog topic.

First, the digital terms and acronyms necessary to play today’s game of content owners and distribution operators need to be discussed. Consider these: downloading, uploading, streaming (and in streaming, is it progressive downloading, live streamed, or adaptive streaming?), wireless, cable, adaptor, HLS format, RTMP format or Impact TC, server, platform or the hundreds of other specific terms related to the science, business and properties of any digital enterprise.  Then, there is the decision of choosing which one of many businesses that have arisen to distribute digital content is the best for you. I have listed one collection below from only one site that claimed they had chosen the fifteen best. At the end of this blog, too,  take a look at the list of links that I picked up in the side column of one website to external links to ‘enhance’ your options related to the topic of digital consumption. There were many dozens. They are all live links. I have also included the links I used to research the blog at the very end…they too are numerous and expect some expertise and time to learn and utilize the new terms and language used by the geeks and nerds of our new world.

The real question you have to consider now is whether to unplug from cable and use another subscription to free your viewing options from a television or not. Also, a major consideration, do you feel it is acceptable to be bound by a viewing schedule, found on something like TV Guide, to view a program at a predetermined, or even live, time? Or perhaps live broadcasting be taken over by Facebook in the future, putting FOX, CNN, CBS, NBC, etc. out of business? They could easily outbid one of them for the rights to air the NFL games.

What each platform is attempting at this juncture is to provide content that is so appealing the customer will sign up. Think of Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, The Queen and all those movies, serials and programs now in existence and even garnering top awards at the Emmys for their efforts that were produced by these new competitors for our time and money. Even the Oscars has taken note. Amazon purchased the distribution rights to Manchester by the Sea and it was awarded an Oscar. They distributed it traditionally, but what does future distribution of a movie mean anymore? The new generation wants to view anywhere and at anytime and doesn’t need to be sitting in an audience, see it on a large screen, hear the quality technically available only in large cinemas…and they are not necessarily going to monetarily reward the people involved in the production of content in the ways that would be considered traditional. Digital is also somewhat easily pirated, as evidenced by the HBO Game of Thrones incident recently. What you can count on, though, is that someone will recognize which platform gathers the most attention. Whether the viewer will be left alone to enjoy the content without advertisements, even though you have paid something to access it, is another matter. I suspect you can expect something to pop up, float over, interrupt, influence or embed within the actual content.  Most likely the Mad Men will find some even more novel way to sell you a product in the future obstructing the content you really want to see, though.

Netflix, Amazon, Google, YouTube are just some of the companies ( and which took down the likes of Blockbuster) which are now hoping to produce and own the content as well as be the distributor of that content. The content you see won’t be owned by you and stored on your device, but, for a fee, you can access it anytime, anywhere and on any device, as long as you have the right device, the right server, the right app and access to the digital signal. And, as you access any information digitally, they are also collecting information about your viewing and purchasing preferences to further tailor your future choices and to figure out how they can influence and find you. Those are all moving targets at this time, each with its own issues and costs, and the list of who is in and who is not changes by the month. Look at this sampling below.

This is one website’s version of the 15 best current streaming providers. They describe the cost comparisons, device needed icons collectionto access the signal and content available in the subscription. There is now the opportunity to tailor your choices more, but it seems every choice we make now for news, for entertainment, for sports, etc., costs 9.99 per month each. Here is a comparison of the best TV streaming services (Keep in mind they all require an internet connection, with the costs, quality, bandwidth speed issues and availability issues to consider):

1. Netflix

Starts at $7.99 per month

iOS, Android, Windows, set-top boxes, most smart TVs, Tivo, most gaming consoles

Excellent on-demand movie and TV show library, with exclusive and original content.

2. Amazon Instant Video

$10.99 per month, $99 per year

iOS, Android, Windows, set-top boxes, most smart TVs, Tivo, most gaming consoles

Great on-demand television and movie library on the web, with some original content.

3. Hulu and Hulu Plus

Starts at $7.99 per month

iOS, Android, Windows, set-top boxes, most smart TVs, Tivo, most gaming consoles

Incredible selection of TV shows; soon will add live television service.

4. Sling TV

Starts at $20 per month

iOS, Android, Windows, set-top boxes, most smart TVs

Features on-demand content and is currently the best live TV service, in comparison to cable television.

5. PlayStation Vue

Starts at $29.99 per month

iOS, Android, Windows, Roku, Sony smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV, Sony gaming consoles

Some on-demand content and a live TV section.

6. HBO Now

$14.99 per month

iOS, Android, most set-top boxes, most smart TVs, newer XBOX consoles

Vast library of HBO-original programming.

7. Showtime

$10.99 per month

iOS, Android, most set-top boxes, most smart TVs

Extensive library of original content broadcasted on Showtime.

8. Starz

$8.99 per month

Android, iOS, and web

Excellent original Starz content, in addition to movies and TV on demand.

9. iTunes

Prices vary on movie or TV popularity/release date

iOS and PC

Limitless movie, TV, and music library, but no original content like Netflix or Hulu. The app is automatically downloaded onto all iPhones.

10. Google Play

Prices vary on movie or TV popularity/release date

Set-top boxes, smart TVs, gaming consoles that run on Android, PC, Mac, iOS

Average media library, with some on-demand options; no original content. The app is supported on all Android devices.

11. YouTube

Lots of free content; other content prices vary on popularity/release date

iOS, Android, Windows, set-top boxes, most smart TVs, Tivo, most gaming consoles

Tons of free, original media from online users; great movie catalog for new releases.

12. VUDU

Prices vary on movie or TV popularity/release date

iOS, Android, Windows, set-top boxes, most smart TVs, most gaming consoles

Offers excellent on-demand content and a wide library of films.

13. FandangoNOW

Prices vary on movie or TV popularity/release date

iOS, Android, Mac, PC, set-top boxes, most smart TVs, most gaming consoles

Features a video on-demand library; a great streaming service for new releases.

14. Cinema Now

Prices vary on movie or TV popularity/release date

iOS, Android, Mac, PC, set-top boxes, most smart TVs, most gaming consoles

Not the best library of entertainment compared to other services, but does offer on-demand streaming.

15. DIRECTV Now

$35 per month

Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Chromecast, Apple TV, iOS, and Android

Live TV streaming service with over 100 channels. Just starting out, and has a few bugs.

This list omits the CBS All Access, Acorn, and dozens of other competitors who’ve entered the game.

https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&biw=994&bih=739&q=different+streaming+services&oq=different+streaming&gs_l=psy-ab.1.0.35i39k1j0i7i30k1l2j0.10404.12024.0.14039.11.8.0.0.0.0.724.914.0j1j6-1.2.0….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..9.2.913.mkXtI46XaBo

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Links used in research:

http://letzgro.net/blog/7-ways-to-host-streaming-video-on-your-website/

https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/Apps/Fundamentals/Audio_and_video_delivery/Live_streaming_web_audio_and_video

https://www.fastcompany.com/3066532/7-ways-streaming-music-will-change-in-2017-after-another-crazy-year

https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2489103,00.asp

https://www.consumerreports.org/streaming-video-services/guide-to-subscription-streaming-video-services/

http://www.newtechnologytv.com/5-ways-broadcasting-will-change-in-the-next-few-years/

http://www.newtechnologytv.com/netflix-is-20-billion-in-debt-what-does-this-mean-for-streaming/

 

 

 

 

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