What used to be a question of which device can support online video will soon become a question of which of many devices consumers will use to enjoy online video. Research firm In-Stat estimates that 200 million web-connected consumer electronics devices will exist in the U.S. by 2014. Adding in the personal computer, smartphones and tablets to the mix means the average U.S. household will choose between 5 and 10 screens to watch digital media by then.
Such a prediction is a complete turnaround from just a handful of years ago, when web-connected televisions were just a fuzzy vision and the video industry was filled with competing media formats. To be sure, various codecs and formats still exist, but broadcasters and content creators are now deciding on just a few methods, the top two being H.264 and Adobe Flash. Formats are only part of the story, however, and the industry hasn’t yet completely standardized on any one such format.
Broadband and consumer devices that can leverage a standard format, on the other hand, has moved consumers forward when it comes to online video. Fast Internet connections to the home and to wireless mobile computers have eroded the challenge of distribution. At the same time, wireless and graphics capabilities of devices have improved, allowing content place shifting. This combination is breaking the traditional chains of sitting in front of a television and opening content consumption “[I]n a myriad of ways over a plethora of devices,” says Keith Nissen, principal analyst at In-Stat.
A few other key data points from In-Stat’s research illustrate that broadband-enabled screens will bring far greater choice for where to watch online entertainment:
- The number of devices capable of supporting online video is expected to grow faster than the amount of available video content. That’s an incredible growth rate given how much consumer video is created each day: YouTube recently said users are uploading 35 hours of content per minute, for example.
- Shipments of web-capable televisions in the U.S. are increasing at a 94 percent annual growth rate.
- 45 percent of households with broadband want to use it for at least some online video services, and why not, when speeds are increasing even as prices are trending down?
Growing up as a child of the cable industry in the 1980s, I used to wonder what to watch out of the many channels available. Thanks to maturing devices and fast web connections, my children are more apt to ask where to watch the content, not what to watch.
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