What is Streaming TV? The Rise of a New Entertainment Medium

Streaming TV, the digital distribution of television programming via the internet, has revolutionized the way we consume entertainment. In contrast to traditional methods like cable or satellite, streaming TV allows viewers to watch content on-demand across a variety of internet-connected devices.

The convenience and flexibility of streaming TV has driven its rapid adoption. In the U.S., the number of households with a streaming TV subscription has grown from 46.3 million in 2014 to 109.5 million in 2023, a 136% increase[^1^]. Globally, streaming TV subscriptions are projected to surpass 1.64 billion by 2026[^2^].

[^1^]: Statista. (2023). Number of streaming TV households in the United States from 2014 to 2023.
[^2^]: Digital TV Research. (2021). Global SVOD Forecasts.

Several tech giants dominate the streaming TV market, each vying for audience attention and subscription dollars:

Company Service U.S. Subscribers (millions)
Netflix Netflix 73.4
Amazon Prime Video 58.2
Disney Disney+ 46.0
Hulu Hulu 41.6
Warner Bros. HBO Max 37.7

Table 1: Leading streaming TV services in the U.S. by subscribers as of Q1 2023. Source: Business of Apps[^3^].

[^3^]: Business of Apps. (2023). Biggest streaming services by subscribers 2023.

Behind the user-friendly interfaces of streaming TV apps lies a complex technological infrastructure. Streaming TV providers leverage extensive content delivery networks (CDNs), adaptable video compression algorithms, and big data analytics to deliver high-quality video streams to millions of concurrent viewers.

Advances in data compression and adaptive bitrate streaming allow platforms to optimize video quality based on a user‘s device and internet speed, minimizing buffering. The Alliance for Open Media‘s AV1 codec, adopted by YouTube, Netflix, and others, can reduce video file sizes by 30-50% compared to previous codecs[^4^].

[^4^]: Ozer, J. (2020). AV1 Has Arrived: Comparing Codecs from AOMedia, Visionular, and Intel/Netflix. Streaming Media.

The exponential growth of streaming TV has had significant implications for global internet infrastructure. Video streaming is projected to account for 82% of all internet traffic by 2023[^5^]. To meet this demand, internet service providers are investing heavily in expanding network capacity and deploying 5G wireless technology.

[^5^]: Cisco. (2020). Cisco Annual Internet Report (2018-2023).

Streaming TV platforms also rely heavily on user data collection and machine learning algorithms to personalize content recommendations and keep viewers engaged. Netflix, for example, employs a sophisticated recommender system that analyzes billions of data points on user viewing habits to surface relevant content[^6^].

[^6^]: Gomez-Uribe, C.A., & Hunt, N. (2015). The Netflix Recommender System. ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems.

Among Us: From Obscure Indie Game to International Phenomenon

The meteoric rise of the online multiplayer game Among Us in 2020 is a prime example of how streaming TV and gameplay streaming have transformed the gaming industry.

Among Us was created by the small American indie studio InnerSloth, founded in 2015 by college friends Marcus Bromander, Amy Liu, and Forest Willard. The trio had previously found moderate success with titles like Dig2China and The Henry Stickmin Collection, but nothing on the scale of Among Us.

Released in June 2018, Among Us pits 4-15 players against each other in a space-themed setting. Most players are "Crewmates" tasked with completing minigames around the map, while 1-3 players are randomly assigned the role of "Impostor" and must covertly eliminate the Crewmates.

Despite favorable reviews, Among Us initially struggled to find an audience, averaging only 30-50 concurrent players for much of 2018 and 2019[^7^]. That changed dramatically in mid-2020 when popular Twitch streamers and YouTubers began playing the game.

[^7^]: Willard, F. (2020). The Story of Among Us. Innersloth Blog.

Among Us‘ player count skyrocketed from 1,800 concurrent players in July 2020 to over 1.5 million by September[^8^]. That month, the game was downloaded nearly 75 million times on mobile[^9^].

[^8^]: SteamDB. (2020). Among Us – Steam Charts.
[^9^]: Sensor Tower. (2020). Among Us Surpasses 75 Million Downloads.

The game‘s popularity on streaming platforms was equally astounding. In September 2020 alone, viewers watched over 200 million hours of Among Us streams on Twitch[^10^]. Individual streams attracted hundreds of thousands of live viewers, including a session by U.S. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar that peaked at 439,000 viewers[^11^].

[^10^]: Newzoo. (2020). Among Us Generated 200 Million Hours Watched on Twitch in September.
[^11^]: Alexander, J. (2020). AOC‘s Among Us stream tops 435,000 concurrent viewers. The Verge.

Several factors contributed to Among Us‘ viral success. The game‘s simple yet engrossing social deduction gameplay was perfectly suited for the era of social distancing. Its cartoonish art style and memeable moments made it highly clippable and shareable on social media. And its pick-up-and-play accessibility made it appealing to both casual and hardcore gamers.

For InnerSloth, the sudden success of Among Us was both exhilarating and overwhelming. The studio rushed to capitalize on the game‘s popularity, releasing new content, cosmetic items, and collector‘s editions. Among Us generated an estimated $64 million in revenue in 2020 across all platforms[^12^].

[^12^]: Nielsen, R. (2020). Among Us Mobile Revenue Surged Past $3 Million in September. Sensor Tower.

The demographics of Among Us players are notably diverse. According to a survey by InnerSloth[^13^]:

  • 38% of players are aged 18-24
  • 19% are 13-17
  • 14% are 25-34
  • 29% are 35+
  • 82% play on mobile, 40% on PC, 24% on console
  • 58% identify as male, 38% as female, 4% as non-binary
[^13^]: InnerSloth. (2021). Among Us Community Survey Results.

While Among Us‘ peak cultural relevance may have passed, the game still maintains a sizable player base, especially on mobile where it consistently ranks in the top 100 most downloaded games. In 2022, Among Us generated $12 million in revenue and was downloaded 20 million times[^14^].

[^14^]: Data.ai. (2023). Among Us: Revenue, Downloads, and Usage Statistics 2023.

Looking ahead, InnerSloth faces the challenge of sustaining Among Us‘ popularity in a hypercompetitive market. The studio has continued to support the game with new content like maps, roles, and cosmetic items. A VR version released in November 2022 offers a new way to experience the game.

Among Us‘ success holds valuable lessons for indie game developers in the streaming era. It demonstrates the power of organic virality driven by shareable moments and streamer-friendly gameplay. It also highlights the importance of accessibility, social features, and cross-platform play for maximizing reach.

The Future of Streaming TV and Gaming

The convergence of streaming TV and gaming, exemplified by the rise of Among Us, points toward a future where the lines between these two forms of entertainment are increasingly blurred.

We are already seeing this trend accelerate with the growth of cloud gaming platforms like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna, and Microsoft xCloud. These services allow users to stream high-end video games directly to their devices without the need for expensive gaming hardware.

As 5G networks and edge computing infrastructure mature, cloud gaming is poised to make gaming more accessible and instantaneous than ever before. By 2025, the cloud gaming market is projected to reach $56 billion in revenue[^15^].

[^15^]: MarketsandMarkets. (2020). Cloud Gaming Market by Offering, Device Type, Gamer Type, and Region – Global Forecast to 2025.

Streaming TV platforms are also getting into gaming. Netflix has launched mobile games based on its popular franchises like Stranger Things. HBO Max has experimented with interactive specials like the Choose Your Own Adventure-style Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episode.

User-generated content and real-time interactivity are becoming increasingly central to the streaming experience. Platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming have made live gameplay streams a major destination for both entertainment and community-building. Among Us lobbies frequently feature lively discussions and impromptu roleplaying alongside the actual gameplay.

As younger generations who grew up with streaming and gaming mature, they are bringing new expectations for participatory, personalized, and socially-connected entertainment experiences. Media companies that can adapt to these demands by blurring the boundaries between TV, gaming, and social media will be well-positioned for success.

At the same time, the streaming TV and gaming industries face ongoing challenges around issues of accessibility, content moderation, and creator compensation. As these media become ever more central to our lives, ensuring they are inclusive, safe, and sustainable will be a critical priority.

The story of streaming TV and Among Us illustrate the rapid technological and cultural changes reshaping entertainment in the 21st century. As we look to the future, one thing is clear: the way we watch and play will continue to evolve in exciting and unpredictable ways.

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