Streaming Media Services
In 2013, Michael Powell, the head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, stated in a Senate hearing that Netflix was the largest subscription video provider in the U.S., not cable or satellite [sources: Eggerton, Komando]. Netflix actually began as a DVD-by-mail service, then moved to streaming and still provides both services. Netflix is also often credited with driving video rental giant Blockbuster to bankruptcy and closure. Blockbuster now exists as a streaming site and an on-demand service of Dish Network.
There are other major streaming sites, including Hulu and Amazon Instant Video; video sharing site YouTube; TV channel sites such as HBO Go and Watch ABC; services that allow you to rent movies and TV shows, such as Google Play, iTunes and Vudu; and Redbox, which offers both online streaming and DVD rentals at special vending-machine-like kiosks.
Not only did these innovative streaming and rental sites severely disrupt the video store market, but they're taking a toll on cable and satellite providers as more and more people are cutting the cord and going with online subscriptions to streaming sites only. If you aren't tied to any shows that require a cable or satellite subscription, you might be able to give up cable and partake of the many thousands of hours of entertainment from which to choose online. Lots of people who stream keep their cable or satellite subscriptions, however. Streaming services, including Netflix and Amazon, are starting to develop and offer their own original programming, too.
Music has gone through a similar shift, with CDs being supplanted over time by digital downloads, starting with the inception of MP3 compression and music sharing (or pirating) sites like Napster, then moving to paid digital downloads from sites like iTunes and Google Play and now unlimited music streaming through services such as Pandora and Spotify.
You can consume streaming video and audio through apps on your smart TV, DVD player, gaming console, computer and even your phone or tablet. There are also dedicated streaming set-top boxes, like the Roku, which allows you to download more than a thousand streaming apps, including most of the major players plus a lot of small niche channels. Other choices include the Boxee box and Apple TV, and small flash drive sized HDMI sticks such as the Google Chromecast and the Roku Streaming Stick.