2010 Year in Review: Streaming content comes to the living room

It's the Holy Grail of online video: getting content from the web to the living room. With plenty of devices in place that are able to do just that, the focus has turned--belatedly--to content.

Netflix, of course, has quickly become the big dog in the pack, with 17 million monthly subscribers and a new direction: streaming video instead of delivering new releases on DVD by mail.

The change wasn't subtle: CEO Reed Hastings, during Netflix's third-quarter earnings call simply laid it out, saying, "By every measure, we are now primarily a streaming company that also offers DVD-by-mail."

The company has embarked on a content buying campaign, including: spending some $1 billion for a five-year deal with Epix to stream newer releases, a deal to stream first-run releases from independent film company FilmDistrict, a deal with exclusive access to stream RelativityMedia-controlled first run movies, and deals with Disney and Sony--despite the thinly veiled threats of pay-TV backers, managed to keep Hollywood in its pocket.

Netflix also rolled out a streaming-only product in Canada and, after it launched successfully, followed up with a streaming-only plan in the U.S. Netflix is far from alone in the space.

Apple says that it's currently selling 400,000 television episodes and more than 150,000 movies from its iTunes service each day. And, while it had no takers for its plan to entice broadcasters into a $30-per-month subscription play late last year, Apple continues to talk with networks about other options.

Amazon also floated a bid for a subscription service, so far unsuccessful; VOD service Vudu, purchased by Walmart early this year, has landed on most of the main OTT boxes, offering $2 movie rentals that have been attractive to consumers. It's relationship with Walmart, and the retailer's clout with studios, should help it grab a bigger piece of the pie. Best Buy bought Cinema Now to dip its toe in the streaming waters, and just this month, Google said it would be aggressively growing its own streaming movie service starting next year. The company, which has been met with unusual resistance in Hollywood, even purchased video delivery and DRM specialist Widevine, a move that industry analysts at the time said could help the company win studio trust.