With a look to the past and an eye on the future, the state of TV watching continues to evolve. Some of that is driven by economics. Budget-conscious TV viewers continue to cut the cord on traditional pay-TV providers (cable and satellite companies, for example), turning instead to a combination of old-fashioned OTA (over the air) TV viewing -- as The Wall Street Journal reports, "It's cool to have rabbit ears again" -- and today's OTT (over-the-top) streaming video providers (such as Netflix, Hulu and a host of others). The rest is driven by the explosion in Internet-connected media-friendly devices -- especially mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.
Caught in an expanding web
We know that the use of mobile Internet is growing, but new forecasts from Cisco put a number to that, and it is a staggering one. The bottom line is that by 2016, Cisco expects that there will be more mobile Internet-connected devices than people on this planet, and that those devices will generate 18 times more mobile Internet traffic than we see today. And what will all of those bits and bytes be carrying? Mostly video -- 71 percent of all mobile web traffic by 2016, Cisco foresees.
Given the overloaded state of mobile Internet in many areas, one has to wonder where the capacity for all of that traffic is going to come from. For now, the first place will be via auctions of unused or under-used parts of the TV broadcast spectrum. We blogged about that solution in the past, and about our reservations with it, but following some compromises that at least satisfied the National Association of Broadcasters, it was included as a rider in the recently passed Payroll Tax bill. Whether or not individual broadcasters take part in the planned-for auctions is more of an open question, however.
Cord cutting continues
Programming providers have been scrambling to figure out how to best deal with Internet-delivered video -- and how it affects their bottom lines. Many cable/satellite services and cable TV channels have responded by pushing content to the web. The catch is that watching full shows usually requires that you keep your cable subscription -- including any premium subscriptions if you want to watch that channel's content via an app. This, of course, is of zero help to "cord cutters," but does give added value to subscribers who want the ability to watch their content anytime and anywhere they want.
But while pay-TV companies are using the net to try and hold onto their subscribers, many are saying "thanks, but no thanks." As noted in The Wall Street Journal article, sales of over-the-air antennas continue to soar. Christopher S. Stewart quotes sales figures from Antennas Direct that show that the company expects to sell about twice as many antennas this year as last, and roughly three times more than in 2010. Once available only via mail order, the company's antennas are now available at Best Buy, Costco and, most recently, Walmart stores, and several are profiled in our report on TV antennas.
An antenna is vital if you want to watch live TV without resorting to using cable or satellite TV -- at least for now. The New York Times reports on a new service, dubbed Aereo, that hopes to change that. However Aereo will initially only be available in New York City -- and there are certain to be lots of lawsuits like the ones that shuttered earlier efforts to stream live TV on the net. For those outside of New York, and who don't mind waiting until after a show's air date, Hulu Plus is still the best bet for current season TV over the net, though as we report in our coverage of video streaming services, not every program or channel is included.