And why not? As a consumer, I’m tired of having to buy a whole package of things just so I can get the small percentage of selections I want.
It’s why I’ve been a long-time fan of Major League Baseball’s streaming service. The $120 (U.S.) annual subscription lets me view or listen to any game, plus countless other interactive features and options. While Blue Jays video broadcasts are blacked out, I can still listen to Jerry Howarth, which is how I often follow the Jays anyway, or watch the game after it’s been archived for any great highlights. But as a baseball fan, rather than just a Jays fan, I’m okay with that. I’ll watch anybody play, it doesn’t matter who, and the service is accessible on multiple devices. I listen to afternoon games on my BlackBerry walking home from work, set up my iPad beside my PC at home while I work or surf and can even watch games on the living room big screen through a PlayStation 3.
I find myself turning to the Net for more than just baseball and movies. I watched game two of the NHL Playoffs on my computer and viewed far more of the 2010 Winter Games online than I did on TV. I also watch CBC News and The Daily Show online, I stream music to my phone and – okay I admit it – I checked out the Royal Wedding on the web. While there are far more over-the-top services and types of content available in the United States than in Canada because of geo and IP blocks, the tide is turning and we are slowly catching up.
Of course, the Internet has a way of trumping things such as geo and IP blocks. Services such as Unblock-us.com and My Private Network, for example, make it relatively easy to access blocked content. I’ve test both, briefly, and they work, though such services usually charge a monthly fee of around $5.
And there’s BitTorrent, the file-sharing protocol used to download video, music and software. While it’s been the main source of Internet-delivered content for Canadians for some time, legitimate services are beginning to erode people’s reliance on ripped shows and movies.
For now, I’m satisfied. Things change, and you never know what the CRTC is going to pull out of its hat. But there’s a lesson in all of this for media businesses: Consumers are in the driver’s seat. We want fair value for the money we spend and when it comes to content and the Internet, we will, for the most part, pay for it. But on our terms.