TV Viewing Trends Shift, Fomenting Change in Entertainment Industry

Online TVAdvances in technology and a wider availability of online content have fomented change in the entertainment industry, according to recent market analyses. The trend is especially obvious in younger viewers, the vast majority of whom watch TV online at least some of the time: a staggering 83 percent of Americans under 25 watch some, most or all of their entertainment online – including streaming TV episodes directly via a major network website or indirectly using a third party site.

As a result, the market for such third party sites as Hulu and Netflix has grown exponentially in recent years. The United States’ top online retailer recently got into the online entertainment game, linking a streaming service featuring thousands of TV shows and movies to its well-established Amazon Prime membership. Even brick and mortar retailers are scrambling to break into the market; in late 2013 top big-box retailer Target launched its Target Ticket service, which offers 30,000 show and movie titles for rent and purchase. The new venture aims to compete with other store-based services such as Wal-Mart’s Vudu and Best Buy’s Cinema Now, in addition to the more established online-only services. And the subscription-based model – where customers pay a monthly fee to access online content – is no longer the only game in town: YouTube’s WIGS channel features original content starring big-name celebrities like Julia Stiles and Anna Paquin, but is free to access – revenues for the channel come mostly from advertising.

While the advent of online entertainment viewing has changed the paradigm of content distribution, it’s also re-defining the content itself. Netflix recently revived the once-cancelled Arrested Development – bankrolling the filming of an additional season seven years after the last episode aired on Fox in 2006 – and new episodes were available only on the site. Online content distributors are also beginning to produce and distribute completely original content – Netflix’s original scripted drama House of Cards won the first-ever Emmy awarded to an online content provider. Because there are few regulations for online content and providers can target niche markets profitably, online-only series’ and movies tend to offer more artistic license than traditional old media outlets – which is a great thing for consumers searching for more diverse entertainment options than the conventional network sitcom.

If lightening-speed industry changes are any indication, one thing is clear: younger generations are providing new and ever-more exciting opportunities for the entertainment industry to test its capabilities and limits – to the benefit of us all.