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Tech Trend: Time To Cut The Cord

With online media streaming services gaining popularity, TV content could soon be a thing of the past

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Over the past few years, a silent revolution has been brewing in our living rooms. Our media consumptions habits are slowly shifting away from the du jour eight talking heads on prime time news, away from movies and TV shows interrupted by unending ad breaks. In their place, an explosion of online media streaming services have turned cord cutting – that’s the millennial term for discontinuing your regular cable and DTH TV services – into a way of life that you or I can …if you can pardon the pun…quite easily subscribe to.

Historically, YouTube has led the charge in this department and continues to offer a sizeable catalogue of content, all available for free. However, a number of paid services have amped up their ‘premium’ offerings over the past year. Both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video already have a strong catalogue on offer, and are regularly turning out new (and oftentimes local), original programming as well.  Hotstar’s catalogue has improved too, courtesy content partnerships with HBO, Republic TV and Disney and live sport coverage during the IPL, F1 and Premier League seasons. And let’s not forget Reliance with its strong regional catalogue on Jio Cinema and its Jio TV platform. The latter, which offers a mind-boggling 452 channels, makes it the biggest OTT platform for live TV, one which receives content from all major broadcasters countrywide.

With the exception of Netflix, which, at a minimum billing of Rs 500 per month, still has dollar-price parity with its US offering, most of these services are fairly reasonably priced to boot. Consider this: in less than what I pay Airtel every month for their DTH service, I can pick up monthly subscriptions to Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video and pay for my Jio Prime membership for Jio TV/Cinema (I would need my high-speed internet connection in any case, so I am not factoring in broadband costs into the equation). Throw in an Amazon FireTV Stick or a Chromecast and I can watch most of this content on the big TV screen and not just restrict myself to my phone.

Of course, none of these streaming services would be possible without a steady, high-quota internet connection, and the Jio effect couldn’t have come at a better time for cord-cutters. Telecom companies are falling over themselves to extend free data benefits to mobile subscribers, and home broadband data rates, at least in major cities, have tanked in anticipation of Jio’s entry into the wired broadband space. With better speeds and increased data caps, data is no longer the limiting factor to your streaming media experience.
Granted, amidst the steady rise of streaming media, cable and DTH incumbents haven’t exactly been sitting ducks. Over the years, we have seen them introduce HD channels, watch-later recording boxes and the ability to watch your TV connection on your mobile devices, and the likes of Airtel are shoring up their defenses by introducing smart DTH set-top boxes with built-in apps for YouTube and Netflix and Chromecast support. But by and large, considering the arcane user interfaces, won’t-work-in-the-rains issues and multiple ad breaks, the experience on OTT services is vastly superior to the set-top box model of watching linear TV. And that’s not even factoring in the convenience of watching your content anytime, anywhere.

As I write this, Netflix is downloading the entire Season 1 of the TV series 13 Reasons Why to watch offline on my next long-haul flight. I am fairly certain 2017 will be the year I will convince the significant other, among other stakeholders in the house, to cut the cord. The question is, when will you?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tushar Kanwar

The author is Technology Columnist and Program Manager in Bengaluru, India

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