While I’m rather fond of technology and gadgets, it is only recently that I tried Netflix streaming video on my Xbox 360. It was fairly easy to do: sign in via your Xbox Gold membership, download the Netflix app to the Xbox 360, get the code it provides, sign in to Netflix, input the code and you are ready to start streaming. While Netflix is accessed via a Gold Account, it does not actually link to that account, so if you switch your Gold account to another Xbox 360, you will need to go through the activation process once again.
On the plus side, the streaming video is part of Netflix and does not add to the cost (as long as you have the appropriate level of membership, of course). I found that the quality was quite good-comparable to watching a DVD. Of course, my TV is not HD (yes, I bear that shame), so I could not provide a truly proper assessment of the quality. The only problems I had were with Comcast-but that is not the fault of Netflix. One the downside, the selection of movies is still somewhat limited. While there are some top tier movies, there are also many B grade flicks.
Watching movies stream over my Xbox 360 made me think about the future of cable TV. Not surprisingly, I began to wonder why anyone would pay for premium movie channels when they could get movies they want, when they want. Of course, some premium channels do offer content that is not available via services like Netflix and there are “on demand” services.
I am, of course, not going out on a limb to say that the path of the future is along the trail being cut by services like Netflix (and, of course, online TV like Hulu). In the near future, set programming schedules will be rather limited or perhaps even non-existent. True, media providers will still produce content on their own schedule, but perhaps there will be something like a “daily delivery” of content that people can view at their convenience. For example, the Daily Show might be filmed in the morning and be ready for viewing anytime after noon.
It also seems likely that the convergence of computers and TV will continue. While there have been various lame and failed attempts to merge the two in the past, the technology is clearly much better now. In fact, as I type this, I am watching V on my PC.
The web and the rise of ereaders like the Kindle show that even the printed media is blending even more into the realm of computers. Even radio is being streamed over the net, thus it seems that all forms of media are converging.
On the positive side, having the web, TV, radio and all sorts of media blended together into one super media does make it more convenient to get that media fix. Also, it might save consumers some money-rather than having to buy multiple devices and have numerous types of subscriptions, people might just need one main device and one subscription (or perhaps a variety will still be the order of the day).
On the negative side, media convergence can lead to monopolies and provide an even more reduced pool in regards to diversity of opinion. After all, one concern about the media today is that a few major companies own almost all the forms of media. Such convergence would put even more control into the hands of a even more limited number of people.
Of course, it could be argued that such convergence will allow for greater diversity. After all, almost everyone has access to the web and can thus be content creators. This convergence would allow (in theory) anyone to provide content and thus there would be an expansion rather than a contraction. Of course, this assumes that those in control of providing access will allow such diversity of content. On one hand, they have much to gain for allowing such content. After all, YouTube thrives (but seems to have yet make any money) on the basis of such user created content. On the other hand, companies often desire to control content and set limitations. After all, there has been considerable dispute over net neutrality in recent years.
Of course, normal TV will continue for quite some time. There are still many people who are just fine with it and, of course, there is the weight of inertia to overcome. But, the future, as always, brings change.
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