Entertainment giants ramp up streaming options at CES
The Consumer Electronics Show is a destination for gadget makers to showcase their latest Internet-connected TVs and smartphones, all of which are enabling a surge in streaming content. Coupled with streaming music services like Pandora and ClearChannel's iHeartRadio, and video services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Hulu, they present a huge opportunity for entertainment and music companies: the ability to provide content anytime, anywhere.
At CES, technology companies have unveiled new ways for consumers to easily access entertainment. Roku announced Monday that it's embedding its technology to stream Internet video into TV sets. Meanwhile, Sony announced a new Internet TV service, which will combine live TV – similar to cable television – with streaming content. "It's all about offering another choice and convenience," said Sony CEO Kaz Hirai.
To meet the growing opportunity on devices, Internet companies are ramping up their content and increasing the ease of access. The more they can get people to stream content, the more advertising and subscription revenue they can bring in.
Ahead of CES, YouTube announced that it's launching a new format that will allow viewers to stream high-definition video with just half the broadband speeds. This will enable users to stream the best high-def video on new Internet-connected TVs and mobile devices, with a lot less buffering.
(Read more: Wearable tech dominates Consumer Electronics Show)
Meanwhile, Hulu, owned by media giants Comcast, Disney, and Fox, announced at CES that it's doubling its original content slate for 2014, with five new shows and a dozen returning series. "The ambition with original programming is to aggressively grow the business both to support an increase in ad revenue as well to have more subscribers join the service in 2014," said Hulu's head of development.
Amazon Prime, which aims to rival Hulu, has been ramping up its premium content deals with the media giants – deals they're eager to make for incremental income. On Wednesday, Amazon inked an exclusive licensing agreement for a new CBS series called "Extant," produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin TV and starring Halle Berry.
Meanwhile streaming music services Pandora and iHeartRadio announced at CES steps to make their services even more ubiquitous, with more auto deals. Pandora, which just revealed plans to roll out ads to its auto platforms this month, announced new partnerships with carmakers to reach 130 vehicle models.
Digital studio Dreamworks Animation is taking an entirely different approach at leveraging new technology to grow its content distribution. The studio is partnering with kids' tablet maker Fuhu to create the "DreamTab," to design a new tablet, featuring its videos and characters from its movies in a range of games. The tablet features privacy controls and the ability for parents to set things like timers and reminders when kids are done with screen time and need to go outside and play, or when it's tooth-brushing time.
Here's the business angle for Dreamworks Animation: the tablet includes a ton of its videos (along with free Disney and Nickelodeon videos) and there are a bunch of games featuring its characters – a great way to get kids hooked on the characters and introduce them to upcoming films and TV series. And with kids no longer watching as much linear TV with commercials as the use of Netflix and Hulu rises, it's crucial to find new ways to get kids to drag their parents to the theater. Plus, Dreamworks Animation will get a share of the revenue from tablet sales.
The tablets will come in a couple sizes – the standard, about the size of an iPad, will cost less than $300, but there's also a much larger version, designed for both viewing videos and two-player games, which will cost more. The hope is that with Dreamworks Animation's support and characters Fuhu will be able to build on the success of its prior kids tablet, the Nabi, which sold more than 2 million units last year and on average stream over 20 million every week.
—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin. Follow her on Twitter: