In May, a cricket match in India broke the record for largest audience for a live-streamed event. The 18.6 million people simultaneous watching the match showed just how far streaming has come since its debut with a live stream of a baseball game listened to by just a few hundred people over dial-up internet connections in 1995. And the medium is just beginning to realize its full potential.
In our first post in this series, we listed the Top 10 cloud technologies bringing the biggest benefits to consumers and businesses. In this post, we explore the fifth item in the list: streaming services.
In many ways, streaming services pick up the baton from broadcast and cable networks in bringing music and video entertainment into homes and workplaces. However, there’s a notable difference between the one-way communication of broadcast and cable media distribution: streaming content is interactive.
Streaming services allow users to play music or video on demand, start and stop it at will, and, thanks to mobile networks, listen to and watch their favorite content just about anywhere in range of a cell tower.
Of course, streaming services can and do stream in real-time like their broadcast counterparts. The first live-streamed event was audio from a Mariners/Yankees baseball game streamed by ESPN in 1995 to fewer than a thousand users over dial-up internet connections. Twenty-four years later, on May 12 of this year, the audience for a cricket match between the Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings hit a live stream record of 18.6 million viewers.
Even so, it is interactivity that has cemented the popularity of streaming services and has ensured its continuing rise. It has even threatened the hegemony of cable service.
Cutting the Cord
Cutting the cord means disconnecting the cable that has brought media into homes for decades. Netflix, which got its start in 1998 sending DVDs in distinctive red envelops to subscribers in the mail, had a mission to stream content over the internet from the beginning; hence the name Netflix.
What started as a 1-2% investment of annual revenue in streaming technology has by now become the main driver of the company’s $15 billion in revenue. In 2013, the company branched out into content creation with the launch of its critically acclaimed series House of Cards and hasn’t looked back.
Amazon followed Netflix’s lead in creating original TV shows and movies to stream, and traditional broadcast and cable networks are getting in on the action with online-only streaming content of their own to complement already-in-place streaming access to the rest of their programming lineup.
And this year, Disney jumped on the streaming bandwagon with the announcement of its Disney Plus streaming service, which will stream all of its movies and shows on demand for a monthly fee that’s less than that of Netflix and other competitors. Let the price wars begin.
The Future of Streaming
Streaming’s inherently interactive nature means that it still has only just begun to explore the full potential of streaming content.
A glimpse of the future came with an episode of Black Mirror—Netflix’s dark science fiction series—called “Bandersnatch.” The show, released at the end of last year, invites viewers to create their own plot twists by clicking on choices at key moments to arrive at one of at least five main endings.
Streaming games offer another glimpse of the future. Millions of e-sports fans already watch games streamed by their favorite players, and as those games become more immersive, they’re starting to stream games in virtual reality (VR) too.
How long before streaming games blend with high-resolution video content to create hybrids of games and TV shows and movies? Throw in augmented reality (AR), and we may be looking at a future of streaming services in which AR and interactive VR blend with interactive scripted content.
VR and AR are the subjects of our next post on the cloud technologies changing the world—technologies made possible by data flowing through data centers around the world, such as those operated by T5 Data Centers.