Remember when we had to rent videos from a physical store? Neither can we. The days of video and DVD rentals are long gone, with chains like Blockbuster closing their shutters for the last time. Just as we evolved, the entertainment industryhas too.  Streaming services like Netflix have all but taken over, making video entertainment available whenever, wherever. How did we get here so quickly? It might surprise you to know that streaming services have been around for far longer than you might think.

Looking Back: The History of Streaming Services‎

‘Streaming,’ as we know it, was coined in the early 90s to describe video-on-demand but came to include live video soon afterwards as well. And while everyone nowadays associates the term with popular streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, the concept of streaming media began way back in 1881 in certain parts of Europe as what was then called the Théâtrophone, or theatre phone. This incredible telephonic distribution system, which ceased service in 1932, allowed those who subscribed to listen to opera and theatre productions via phone lines.

Music was then streamed continuously in the 1910s over electrical lines now known as ‘muzak,’ and customers no longer needed to own a radio, which at that time was expensive technology. The technology involved in such audio streaming wasn't particularly revolutionary, but it was a step in the right direction.

Then, in 1929, the Telephone Music Service was introduced to Pittsburgh in the US. An interactive service where bar and restaurant patrons would deposit coins into a jukebox, after which, they’d pick up a phone and request a song from an operator on the other end. It was an interesting piece of technology as the operator would find the requested song and have it play from the jukebox! This technology survived a while and was only discontinued around 1997.

Then came the computer, and for a long time, streaming was incredibly limited due to slow computing, data speeds, and limited bandwidth. This was the unfortunate truth until the early 2000s, when DSL and cable internet connections entered the market, revolutionising data speeds, and increasing bandwidth.

As you might expect, more solutions began to pop up over the years, as did the very first online live streaming service:

  • −1993 (video): A gig by American rock and roll band Severe Tire Damage at Xerox PARC is streamed live by scientists working in the building and seen by people in several countries around the globe
  • −1995 (video): RealNetworks streams a baseball game between the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners using Microsoft’s Microsoft TV application
  • −1995 (audio): A collaboration concert involving the Seattle Symphony, Slash (Guns N’ Roses), Matt Cameron (Pearl Jam) and Barrett Martin is streamed

And with faster internet speeds and a higher amount of bandwidth, streaming has gone from strength to strength, especially with the standardisation of video and audio formats.

In 2002 Adobe Flash was used to play videos on websites, which is why YouTube’s very first iteration in 2005 used a Flash-based player to stream its video. However, these days, almost every video streaming site uses the latest HTML5 video technology, which allows for increased speeds while limiting buffering.

Speaking of YouTube, here are some cool stats about the video streaming giant:

  • −YouTube is the world’s second-most visited website
  • −It has 2.3 billion users who log in
  • −More than a billion hours' worth of video content is watched on YouTube every day
  • −100 billion hours’ worth of gaming content was consumed throughout 2020
  • −30,000 hours of videos are uploaded to YouTube every hour

These astounding stats show just how far we've come from the Théâtrophone. YouTube aside, how did the streaming service giant Netflix start, and where will it go?

What is Netflix?  A brief history

Netflix is arguably the pioneer of streaming services.

Founded in 1997, Netflix was the world’s first fully online DVD rental platform. Two years later, it introduced a subscription model on top of its existing single-rentals system, and it proved to be an incredible success. This subscription model allowed users to pay a flat fee each month and rent unlimited DVDs, with no late fees, shipping costs, or due dates!

It was so successful, that according to the company, its subscriber base increased from 1 million in Q4 2002 (the year it went public) to 5.6 million in Q3 2006. And we’re still talking about physical DVDs!

In 2007, with technological advancements, Netflix introduced its streaming service to the world. This caused its subscriber count to skyrocket yet again. Giving its customers the ability to watch video content instantly when on an internet connection was a game-changer for the company, and its subscriber count reached new heights. In 2011, its subscriber count hit 24.3 million globally, and has only increased with time.

But it wasn’t just the ease of streaming content that helped. The ongoing annoyance with intrusive advertisements that interrupted shows was a major push factor towards Netflix, which offered an ad-free, on-demand experience from a vast library of movies and TV shows for a nominal monthly fee.

This ballooning subscriber count, combined with its decision to go public in 2002, gave Netflix the funding it needed to produce its own high-quality content by 2013, with series like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. It has since backed many other successful shows and films including Stranger Things, The Crown, The Witcher, The Old Guard and so much more.

Wondering about its recent figures? In the first quarter of 2021, Netflix had 207.64 million subscribers worldwide!

What is Netflix effect?

When all eyes are on a new show that does well, you can expect a previously obscure actor to be thrust into the limelight and transformed into a superstar — that is the 'Netflix effect’.  Netflix is so powerful it can influence the success of cast members in the binge-worthy shows it releases.

For example, before Stranger Things, no one had heard of Millie Bobby Brown. However, with everyone all over the world engrossed in her character's exploits, her name became synonymous with the highest-rated Netflix original series, and she became an overnight sensation. With the new-found fame, she has since gone on to star in other huge films like the Godzilla film franchise.

And if you’ve watched The Queen’s Gambit, you’ll no doubt have enjoyed Anya Taylor-Joy’s portrayal of world-class chess player Beth Harmon. Prior to her role as Harmon, she’d been in quite a few relatively major roles including Gina Gray in Peaky Blinders and Thomasin in The Witch. But it wasn’t until The Queen’s Gambit and its popularity that she really ‘broke out’ to become the celebrity that she is today.

Major Streaming Services in the Entertainment Industry‎

With millions of subscribers all around the world, it is no surprise that other streaming services want a slice of the pie.  Netflix has paved the way for an abundance of competition today, and the list seems to grow longer every year.

In addition to Netflix, there’s Amazon Prime, HBO Now, YouTube TV, Disney+, and many more, depending on which country you live in.

Besides video, there’s also a myriad of audio streaming services including Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music, Apple Music, YouTube Music, and Tidal.

Singapore’s Streaming Leaders‎

So, who are the major players when it comes to video streaming in Singapore? There's meWATCH if you enjoy local TV shows on-demand. But if you prefer more international content, you might want to consider the following options:

1. Netflix

Netflix's history aside, you're probably more curious about the titles it offers. Honestly, with Netflix, the list is seemingly endless, with content ranging from American sitcoms to Korean Dramas. You can be certain there's something you'll love on the platform. That said, because Netflix subscription plans are renewed on a monthly basis, you’re free to cancel if and when you run out of things to watch (though we highly doubt that).

If you're looking for a Netflix promo, turn to M1, which has some great offers on Netflix subscriptions.

2. TVBAnywhere+

If you’re like us and can’t get enough of the delightful dramas and variety shows that TVB has to offer, you’re in luck! Never miss another episode of your favourite Asian shows with TVBAnywhere+.  TVBAnywhere+ lets you stream top-rated Hong Kong dramas anytime, anywhere. So, you'll stay up to date with the highs and lows of series like Death by Zero.

You can get your monthly subscription to TVBAnywhere+ from M1 at only $4.98/mth.

3. Viu

Don't want to miss out on the latest Korean dramas? With over 30 million daily users, Viuoffers subscribers a gigantic library of movies, TV shows, and original series from several countries. From classics like Pretty Little Liars to a slew of K-dramas, Viu Premium lets you watch releases as early as a few hours after the original telecast, so you won't have to avoid your friends who might give spoilers.

Sign up with M1 today for uninterrupted access to your favourite shows.

FAQs about Streaming Services‎

To make sure you have a smooth streaming entertainment experience, here's a list of some of the more commonly asked questions we’ve received about streaming.

Q: Is a computer needed to play streaming video?

A: Not at all! You can use your smartphone and your TV, provided it’s either a smart TV or you have Apple TV or Chromecast connected.

Q: Is the internet required to stream?

A: Unless you’ve already downloaded the file from the streaming service and it’s saved on your computer or phone, you’ll need a connection to the Internet.

Q: Can I subscribe to multiple streaming services at once?

A: Absolutely! You’re free to pick whichever streaming service you like. And because they’re all monthly subscriptions, you can easily make adjustments every month — just like M1’s Bespoke Flexi Plan!

Q: What if I don’t have a lot of data allowance with my network provider?

A: If you’re worried about going over your monthly data allowance, try to stream videos only when connected to Wi-Fi. Alternatively, you can download videos before heading out so you can watch them on the go without using your data.

You could also get an M1 Bespoke Flexi Plan, which allows you to alter your data allowance and call time each month, at a fantastic price, too!

Q: What’s the best connection to have if I want to reduce buffering time?

A: Your best bet is to get 5G. Why sign-up for 5G? It's faster and overall better than 4G.

How 5G will Impact the Entertainment Industry‎

If you’ve streamed video or audio before, you’ve no doubt run into problems. This could be either buffering (usually at the most important moment), pixilation or the video switching to a lower resolution to keep playing.

And because 5G would introduce not just much quicker data speeds but also increased bandwidth, you’ll no longer have any problems with any of that. This also means more people consuming more content than ever before!

What does this mean for the entertainment industry? We’re currently largely restricted to binge-watching shows only when on Wi-Fi. But with 5G, we can do it wherever we are. It is predicted that there will be a higher demand for shows and movies in the next few years, so for streaming services such as Netflix, this might mean a huge increase in original show production before 5G has fully been rolled out to meet consumer demands.

And what does this mean for all of us binge watchers? For one, if you want uninterrupted streaming of the latest shows, having 5G connection will be a dream come true. With streaming platforms like Netflix, Viu, and TVBAnywhere+ continuing to churn out content, you won't want to miss out. Not sure how to kickstart your move to 5G? With M1, you can add on the 5G Booster pack and, provided you’ve got yourself a 5G-enabled handset, you’ll be surfing at the fastest speeds out there in no time at all!