The way we consume media has changed. Sure, we may still sit in front of a TV and watch our favorite shows but it’s not the same as it once was. Streaming has gradually changed the way in which we access content. From streaming music via services such as Spotify to movies on Netflix, there are now streams for everything and anything. According to the stats, at least 100 million people now pay to stream music, with the industry leader Spotify boasting more than 39 million customers.
Roku’s Rise Signals a New Era
With the world apparently now willing to swim in a variety of streams, it’s hardly surprising that Roku has become the most popular streaming device in the US. Since the first generation Roku set-top box hit the market in 2008, the company has gradually permeated the US market and, today, data from Parks Associates shows that it’s the top device in the country. As of Q1 2017, 37 percent of streaming media players owned by US broadband households were Roku devices. That figure is up by almost 33 percent from the same period in 2016 and suggests that such devices are now becoming the norm for internet connected homes. Like Roku, Amazon, with its Fire stick, is now in 24 percent of US homes, while Google Chromecast hit 18 percent in Q1.
Of course, alongside these devices, you’ve also got Apple TV that fuses online streaming with mobile streaming. By “throwing” content from your iPhone or iPad to an Apple TV box, you can essentially turn mobile content into TV entertainment. In fact, if you combine Apple TV with an app such as Movie Box, you can watch movies on your TV, via your iOS device, without jail breaking your device or relying on your local TV listings. In this sense, plug-in devices have essentially shifted the power from major networks to you. Yes, you have to go through a streaming service and its associated products (i.e. Netflix etc) to find content, but it’s content that you want at a time you want it. Putting it another way, TVs are no longer a portal to someone else’s world of entertainment, they’re a window into your own interests and desires. When you plug a Roku device into your TV, you’re essentially disconnecting yourself from the “main grid” of TV networks and exposing yourself to a new, more flexible form of entertainment.
Streams Don’t Always Flow from the Outside In
Of course, while Roku and its competitors are plugging themselves into our TVs and changing the way we interact with new media, our browsers are just as well equipped to handle our streaming needs. Twitch is clearly the market leader when it comes to broadcasting gaming and gamers online.
At the last count, 2.2 million people were streaming their content to an audience of more than 100 million. The growth of Twitch since it blossomed out of Justin.TV in 2011 has not only created a new entertainment medium but spawned a number of similar projects. Taking the idea of interactive gaming and massaging it for its own needs over the last decade is the iGaming industry. Online casino operators have managed to blur the lines between reality and virtual gaming through games marked as “live dealer”. As well as providing online players with a direct link to real dealers controlling real casino games, the options have now become a form of entertainment in their own right. At Betway Casino online, the list of games now includes something known as Dream Catcher. Essentially a take on Wheel of Fortune, this game is as much about the host putting on a show as the actual result of the game.
Similar to this, you’ll now see gamers put much more production value into their streams. Take, for instance, professional poker player Doug Polk. As well as actively streaming his games via Twitch and YouTube, Polk reviews hands and offers tips to players. On top of this, he also provides topical reports and news updates via his YouTube channel. This trend has also spread across to the computer gaming world with streamers now offering just as much entertainment as gaming insights. In fact, Amazon’s 2016 move to bring Twitch under its Prime banner was a clear encapsulation of this new dynamic. Today, if you want to watch streams without any ads, you can subscribe to Twitch Prime (part of Amazon Prime) and enjoy some uninterrupted entertainment. Indeed, the very fact Twitch broadcasts are set alongside movies and TV shows such as Legend and The Tick is a testament not only to how gaming streams have changed, but how streaming has changed entertainment.
A New Slow of Entertainment
Thanks to this paradigm shift, it’s easy to see why Roku is dominating in the US and why new crossover products are hitting the market all the time. If you don’t want wires, the Sunvell R69 allows you to unlock digital content via your TV without plugging things in. Or, as we noted in our review of the PIPO X9, tablets, PCs and TV boxes are now starting to merge into a single device. The PIPO X9 is just one example of this, but it’s a product that shows we’re now looking for easier access to more online entertainment. If this means fusing tablets, PCs and then connecting to our TVs, that’s what will happen. Essentially, as we said at the top of this piece, the way we consume media and tease out some enjoyment from it has changed. Roku’s rise to prominence is just the tip of an iceberg that now filters down into a stream of streaming platforms that have given a new perspective on TV, videos and more.