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One in every four American homes has Netflix streaming

The number of homes that regularly stream media from Netflix has risen 20 percent in the last year, with one in every four homes in the country now using the company’s Watch Instantly service. That’s far from the only jump in digital content, with audiences for Amazon and Hulu also rising compared with the previous year.

A survey by consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates found that, for the first time, more than half of America’s households regularly stream movies and TV shows in a November 2012 pool of 1,500 homes across the country. About 55 percent of those polled stream content, up from 49 percent in November 2011. Netflix saw the biggest gain in audience size, going from 20 percent market penetration in 2011 to 25 percent; Similarly, Amazon Instant Video went up from five percent to eight percent with the latest study. Hulu’s rise was smaller, up just one percent from four to five percent year-on-year.

Maryann Baldwin, the Vice President of the consulting firm’s Magid Media Futures division, said the study proved that Netflix currently has the edge on the streaming market, but believes that will change as the audience becomes more familiar with the format and the competition. “Netflix is certainly the de facto brand for long-term streaming,” she said. “As more people discover Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime, their expectations for quality content are going to change because they tend to have the more recent content. The competition is making inroads.”

That paradigm may shift again as all of the streaming options offer more original and exclusive content; while Hulu Plus may have the latest episodes of your favorite television shows the day after they air on television, only Netflix will be offering “House of Cards” or brand new episodes of “Arrested Development” this summer. Will this kind of exclusive material force customers to choose one service over another, or are they more likely to subscribe to multiple services? After all, it’s not as if they’d need different hardware to view Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon.

Of course, the hardware is changing in people’s homes as they move towards streamlining the amount of devices necessary to stream content to their screens. The Magid survey also noted that the number of homes with Internet-enabled televisions has risen over the last year, with 35 percent of all U.S. households having web-friendly televisions in November 2012 compared to 30 percent in November 2011. According to a projection from Magid’s team, the trend for web-enabled TVs will only speed up over the next year, reaching somewhere in the region of 42 percent by the end of 2013.

More and more, it seems, the future of television is connected to online content – both figuratively and literally.

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