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Don't look now, but the media revolution took a big step forward this week when Disney's (NYSE: DIS ) ESPN launched live streaming video to Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC ) subscribers. A few weeks ago I pondered possible new distribution models the Internet is offering, and now the biggest name in television is making another move to test the waters. This follows ESPN3.com, which streams replays of NCAA football games and less popular live events such as European soccer.
For now, the live ESPN stream is limited to Time Warner's cable subscribers and isn't available on mobile devices, but I think expansion on both fronts is only a matter of time. Hulu Plus, partly owned by Disney, is experimenting with a subscription model on such devices, and it isn't out of the question for ESPN to do the same eventually.
This is important because ESPN is the biggest, most powerful name on television. It's a major reason why people pay $50 for cable TV, and if it finds alternative models of distribution, it could help turn the media business on its head.
So what's next?
The fun question is: What does this mean to other media distributors and the future of media? Is a Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) TV subscription app just down the road for ESPN? Is an Android or Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone app coming anytime soon? Can Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) add live streaming partners to expand its offerings and continue to dominate the streaming market?
None of those questions is likely to be answered in the next week or month, but media content providers are no doubt exploring their options. Given the fight between News Corp.'s (Nasdaq: NWSA ) Fox and Cablevision (NYSE: CSC ) in New York, these alternatives would be welcome for consumers and allow content providers to charge prices they deem appropriate.
If you're anything like me, you don't use 90% of the channels on cable, so paying only for what you have demand for might be a welcome change.
Content providers and companies with a streaming distribution model are taking the lead in the media revolution in my eyes. I'm watching to see how Netflix, Apple, and Google can take advantage of their distribution models to get media in our hands whenever we want it. Slowly but surely, media content is on the move.
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