Cable TV Goes Online: The Revolution Will Be Televised… Er, Streamed.

Given that the Internet changed the way we listen to music, buy goods, and keep in touch, it’s not really a surprise that some people abandoned cable TV in favor of online streaming video. To some, online content providers, like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, serve as complements to their TV viewing; to others, they serve as alternatives. Paying For Cable to Watch TV Online To the frustration of cable cutters, not all networks participate with these streaming services, and some only offer content long after it’s been broadcast. Many of these networks have their own online streaming services, but services like HBO Go are only available to those with TV subscriptions. Such terms make them pointless to consumers viewing content online so they don’t have to pay for cable. In October, HBO announced it would finally offer what many were asking for — standalone HBO Go service. STARZ didn’t wait long to echo HBO with its own “I am Spartacus!” statement this month. Days later, Showtime’s CEO said his company’s Anytime streaming service will be available in 2015. This news definitely constitutes a trend, but will it slow down, or are we witnessing an ever-growing snowball of online-only subscriptions? Content Creation vs. Distribution The business of cable TV requires negotiations between cable networks and the cable/satellite TV carriers. Each network charges the carrier a fee to carry their channel, with more popular networks earning higher fees than less popular ones. Sometimes, these negotiations go poorly. Last year, a dispute between AMC and Dish Network meant that subscribers missed out on that channel – and three others – for four months. The bickering cost AMC $31 million. Other networks watched that standoff, and subsequent cable TV contract disputes, the way fans of the zombie apocalypse watched “The Walking Dead.” It couldn’t have taken these networks too long to ask the obvious question: why not just eliminate the satellite and cable companies, and offer online subscriptions directly to viewers? Careful What You Wish For Let’s hope, though, HBO has beefed up its online infrastructure in anticipation of these online-only subscribers. Back in April, the HBO Go premier of Game of Thrones proved so popular that it crashed the site, leading to anguished screams of “Hodor! Hodor hodor!” from across the seven kingdoms of social media. That was the second crash in as many months: in March, viewer demand for the “True Detective” finale brought the site down as well. It’s also not certain that eliminating your cable/satellite TV in favor of online-only streaming will offer the same number of channels for the same cost. So far, none of the networks have provided an official price for streaming subscriptions. And increased streaming could cause significant online congestion: streaming video is data-heavy, and Netflix alone now makes up over a third of all wired Internet traffic in North America. We’re betting more networks will soon offer online-only subscriptions. When that happens, you’ll need to make sure your Internet connection is good enough to stream the content you want at the quality you’re used to. If you’re not sure your current service is ready, enter your zip code below to find service that is. Image Source/Flickr

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Will Smith is a copywriter living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His favorite word is “petrichor,” and aside from wordplay, he loves reading history, watching Dodger baseball, and racing with the Sports Car Club of America.

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