Last week, Verizon (NYSE: VZ) seemed to lay the foundation for a future full of Internet media streams. Separating FiOS content from the fiber-optic pipes that carry it prepares Big Red for more audacious net-only media moves.

But some people think I'm barking up the wrong tree. For example, AT&T (NYSE: T) has been running its U-Verse TV service on a pure IPTV infrastructure for years, and we still don't have the option to watch those streams outside of the AT&T-connected universe. Hold your horses, old bean -- it's still early days in the history of digital media. The trend is taking root all over the media landscape.

Satellite TV infrastructure veteran EchoStar (Nasdaq: SATS) just bought IPTV-streaming expert Move Networks for an undisclosed sum. EchoStar hasn't announced any specific uses for Move's technology, but the deal gives EchoStar another delivery channel that doesn't necessarily rely on satellite signals. The company might beat AT&T and/or Verizon to the punch with a TV service delivered over any high-speed Internet connection and independent of any particular cable or dish hookup.

EchoStar has owned Sling Media for more than three years, which is a direct play on Internet-enhanced TV viewing. Thanks to the companies' near-Siamese connection, DISH Network (Nasdaq: DISH) DVR boxes now often come with Slingbox features, thus combining traditional DVR timeshifting with Internet-based placeshifting -- watch your recorded content anywhere and anytime you like! Thanks to a fully-formed portfolio of smartphone applications, Slingbox content is now a fully mobile solution. From there, it'd be a small step to simply sell online-only broadcast services.

And we've only just scratched the surface of the digital media trend.

It may feel like Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) is the only company out there to keep the digital media ball rolling, but that's not the case at all. Media and communications operators have been squirreling away at their online offerings for years -- it's just that Netflix located and exploited its particular niche first.

I give Hollywood and Madison Avenue about five years to adjust to the new reality of digital media. By 2020, broadcasting as we know it today will be mostly dead and replaced by a robust, consumer-friendly array of Internet-based solutions. Some sections of the media industry will succumb to the changes faster than others, but there's no stopping it now. It's what consumers want, whether they know it today, and the customer is always right.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Netflix but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Netflix is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.