Competition is heating up in living rooms across the country.
Cable television, which has long dominated expanded TV services, is facing more rivals than ever before.
Not only are satellite companies ready to siphon off customers unwilling to pay for $100-a-month television, but Internet companies too are increasingly offering services not meant for your computer, but for your TV.
Apple unveiled a newly designed device earlier this month meant to stream Internet programming to a home television. The updated $99 Apple TV lets users rent movies on demand for prices starting at $2.99 and television shows for 99 cents.
Google says it will release later this fall its own device for the family television. The price is unknown, but the company has said Google TV will be an Android-based, set-top box manufactured by Logitech and designed to ease the process of searching for and watching Web-based programming on the TV set.
And they're just the most recent additions to the crew of cable alternatives.
For $8.99 (and up) a month, Netflix subscribers can already stream programs through a variety of gaming consoles, such as Nintendo's Wii and the Xbox 360. And the Roku player, a tiny set-top box that costs about $60, also lets users stream movies and TV shows from Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand.
Boxee even gives consumers a free option. After downloading the software to their computers and connecting the computer to a TV, users can watch movies, TV shows and clips from anywhere on the web and share their programs with friends.
The company also plans to release the Boxee Box, a set-top box that eliminates the need for a computer, "as soon as possible."
Janko Roettgers, co-editor of the new media and online video blog NewTeeVee, said industry watchers have long debated the cable cord-cutting phenomenon. But in the second quarter of 2010, pay-TV subscriptions in the United States actually declined for the first time, he said.
Cable companies lost 711,000 subscribers, which was their biggest quarterly loss in cable TV's history, according to media research firm SNL Kagan.
Roettger said some of the subscribers moved to satellite services and others signed up for pay TV during the digital television transition and decided to cut loose when the introductory rates went up.
The research firm expects the industry to recover in the third and fourth quarters and cautions not to read too much into the data, but the new web-to-TV services could continue the trend, Roettger said
"I think this might be the first quarter where we really see this trend have the impact of cord-cutting," he said. "And I think it's going to continue because of these [new devices]. … They're just going to accelerate this because they make it much easier than before."
Until now, he said, the technically minded were really the ones prepared to trade in cable TV for the web-only experience. But the new devices from Google, Apple, Boxee and others make it more accessible to everyone else.
According to an August survey from the New York Times and CBS News, 88 percent of respondents paid for traditional TV service. Only 15 percent of those subscribers considered replacing cable with Internet services such as YouTube and Hulu.