Cable-cord cutters make way toward streaming media
The media-consuming landscape has taken leaps into the future as recent Internet-streaming trends are reinventing the possibilities for cord cutters to upend their cable bills.
While online content libraries, such as Netflix and Hulu Plus, have grown popular by offering on-demand streams of movies and television shows at a monthly cost of $7.99, the push to bring live television online is the latest movement.
Within the past few months, Dish Network Corp. launched an online streaming service, Sling TV, that includes ESPN and other popular channels for $20 per month. In New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, Sony began a trial run of its entertainment center, PlayStation Vue, for $50 to $70 per month. And Apple announced an exclusive three-month partnership with HBO, offering a $15 per month subscription on its iOS devices and a rumored web-TV service to be announced later this year.
At UCF, these online-TV bundles are giving consumers new alternatives from the traditional pay-TV model that typically costs the average American about $90 per month, according to a report published by consumer market firm NPD Group.
"Since I don't subscribe to a cable subscription, it fills in the consumption that I want. And honestly, with streaming, I don't feel like I'm missing out on cable," said Brandon Chang, a junior interactive design major.
Online streaming media devices, such as the Roku 3, Apple TV and Google's Chromecast, provide a wide selection of applications and channels with screen-mirroring technology.
According to market research firm GfK, 19 percent of TV viewers now own at least one of the three devices, an increase from two percent in 2010.
"What I do, if I cannot get the streaming directly from the TV, I get it mirrored from my phone," said Sagir Mohammed, a freshman computer engineering major. "I think the absolute revolution of streaming devices is in portable."
Chang said he uses a digital antenna to get local channels, such as NBC, Fox and CBS, in high-definition for free over the air. That, along with an Apple TV, keeps his entertainment hub of HBO, Netflix and Spotify integrated, he said.
However, for most consumers, premium sports packages are the last hurdle for potential cable cutters.
"Sports is the difference. It's the only thing that's live, and you're not going to watch it on-demand," said Mohammed, who is looking for an online service to follow tennis, soccer and extreme sports.
Many professional sports leagues, including MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, NFL Sunday Ticket and MLS Live, sell direct-streaming access to games with student discounts up to 35 percent off. However, most blackout rules apply to local and national games due to local television agreements.
Before the launch of Sling TV, ESPN restricted access to its WatchESPN app to those who could authenticate a login with a cable partner. Some cable cutters bypassed this by borrowing logins, which allow up to three simultaneous streams. However, a $20 per month subscription might sway those users.
"The new generation is willing to take a sacrifice [in prices] for an all-streaming model, and these companies are terrified by that," Chang said. "It's a matter of time that the larger entities are going have to give in or get left behind."
In the meantime, the beginning of live-television streaming will be the cornerstone for future platforms to come.
"I think [cable TV] will be greatly overpowered. Right now, most of the people I know are already using streaming and everyone is seeing the bright side behind it," Mohammed said.
Brian Goins is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @BrianGoins or email him at BrianG@CentralFloridaFuture.com