September 5, 2010 in Business

Apple has Web TV competitors

Wailin Wong Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO – An increasing number of consumers are watching online videos, but the trend hasn’t led to the demise of pay-TV services such as cable and satellite.

“For now, the idea of a cord-cutting revolution appears to be purely fiction,” a June report from the Nielsen Co. noted.

The research firm said online video is more niche than mainstream, with younger households accounting for the bulk of activity. These consumers also watch 40 percent less TV per day than the national average.

Despite the slow pace of the cord-cutting phenomenon, many major tech companies and content providers have jumped into the online TV space with an array of platforms, pricing and devices. Google, for example, announced in May a software platform that can be integrated into hardware such as TV sets and set-top boxes to blend a Web experience with channel surfing.

Some of the popular video-streaming services are available on a variety of devices, including Web-connected TVs, Blu-ray players, gaming consoles and specialized gadgets, such as the Roku set-top box. Here are a few ways to watch TV episodes via the Web:

• Hulu: This online video juggernaut offers free shows from NBC, Fox, ABC and others. Typically, the ad-supported site offers the five latest episodes of a program, with new ones available a day after they air.

• Amazon Video on Demand: This service from the e-commerce giant allows customers to purchase TV shows, typically for $1.99 an episode (some cost as little as 99 cents, and high-definition videos are $2.99). Buying a TV Pass grants access to a current season of a show for a lower price per episode than purchasing individual episodes.

• iTunes: Apple’s content store typically sells shows for $1.99 an episode, or $2.99 in high definition. Viewers can purchase season passes for the full run of a current season. The new Apple TV unveiled Wednesday will use a different model, offering shows from ABC and Fox for rental at 99 cents per episode.

• Netflix: The online DVD rental company offers a library of video content available for streaming via its Watch Instantly service. Subscribers can access unlimited streaming starting at $4.99 a month.

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