If You Can’t Beat Them…

Netflix has clearly seen the writing on the wall, and is transitioning its business from distributing plastic disks to providing subscription access to movies delivered over the Internet. Hulu, Joost, and other sites are feeding a growing consumer demand for content delivered on demand over broadband. Now comes word that the largest video subscription services in the country — the cable and satellite TV companies — are exploring the Internet as a means of delivering their content.

There were numerous reports this week that Comcast is exploring initiatives with content providers as well as competitors including Time Warner Cable and DirecTV. Much like the Netflix “all you can eat” online access to movies for subscribers, this new approach would let users with cable or satellite subscriptions watch content online in addition to receiving it from their set top box. This design will free viewers from the physical cable, and let them watch anywhere they have access to the Internet, either around the home or when traveling.

The companies have a lot of technology and business work to do before you’ll be able to boot up HBO in the airport, but it’s clear that they see this as a viable model for future content delivery (not to mention that Internet on-demand delivery could provide some relief from the bandwidth constraints that these services are experiencing). It may be just a matter of time before the concept of a “television channel” is lost to history.