A lot is written about the effect that the streaming era might have on television. The widespread assumption is that a growing variety of streaming options are giving birth to a generation of “cord cutters” who will ultimately dismiss television (and perhaps movie theaters as well) entirely. The data backs up the idea. A 2017 analysis revealed that while the transition is somewhat slow (a predicted decline of 1.5% a year in cable subscriptions over the next decade), it is happening. The notion of conventional viewing entertainment may look very different in a matter of years.
What we don’t spend as much time writing or talking about however is that the emergence of “streaming” as its own portion of the Internet is also spawning new entertainment industries altogether. It allows those who enjoy television, film, gaming, etc. to have more control over what content they access, and in some cases, it even enables closer interaction with that content.
The clearest examples of this can be found in some of the newer streaming options that have become available to consumers. YouTube TV may be the first that comes to mind – a platform that essentially operates as a more comprehensive version of Sling, providing a variety of cable channels, as well as a very robust DVR system to its users. However, while YouTube TV is certainly one of the more competitive alternatives to cable, it’s also a fairly basic concept already. It’s an adaptation more than a new concept.
We can look to more niche streaming options as indications of new industries, per se. For instance, one of the most recent to come about is ESPN+. Faced with a rapid change base of consumers with a variety of different preferences, ESPN introduced this platform not as an app version of its TV network, but rather as a sort of catch-all for interesting, streamed sports content. Users signing up for the service can enjoy everything from live games to, for instance, a new exclusive program in which ex-NBA star Kobe Bryant breaks down the tactics of a recent basketball game. Again, it’s less a version of the ESPN you can get with a basic cable package (or YouTube TV or Sling for that matter), and more an alternative form of streaming sports content.
In other areas, streaming platforms are also enabling fans to take part in the action rather than simply choose what action they’re seeing. Most notably, live streaming has become a very significant part of the online betting industry. Through platforms like YouTube and Stitch, as well as those dedicated to specific sports, games, or activities (like, say, horse racing or poker), live streaming is able to create a gaming experience that’s almost as good as being in the thick of it. In this instance, not only can fans choose their content and access it live – they can use that real-time access to make informed betting decisions on the content, should they so choose.
Taking all of these developments together, we begin to see the emergence of new industries spinning would-be television content (or in some cases events that are simulated or would never have been on TV before) into specialized and/or interactive entertainment. Streaming platforms, ultimately, have the power to give each individual almost exactly what he or she wants out of viewing entertainment. And we’re starting to see things moving slowly but surely in that direction.