This was the year that streaming media started mainstreaming.
Think of it like the history of television itself: sure, there were broadcasts as early as the 1920s and TVs made a big splash at the 1938 World's Fair, but most people weren't on board until Milton Berle and “Texaco Star Theater” in 1948.
In terms of public acceptance and mass expansion of streaming video, 2013 is the medium's 1948.
This is Year One.
The main story, of course, was the rapid rise of Netflix as a go-to outlet for video.
The service started out its big year with the Feb. 1 arrival of Netflix' first original series, the David Fincher-produced “House of Cards.”
Just 10 months later, with “Orange is the New Black,” “Hemlock Grove” and the fourth season of “Arrested Development” in its queues, not to mention successful forays into stand-up comedy with Aziz Ansari and Marc Maron, Netflix changed the conversation about the very nature of television programming in the next decade.
Binge viewing was around thanks to box sets and DVRs, but Netflix made it easy.
But Amazon Prime also made huge inroads in the online streaming market in 2013, staging its first “pilot season” in the spring and green-lighting two half-hour comedies out of that batch, “Alpha House” and “Betas.” Prime also made some huge power grabs, including exclusive second-run rights to CBS' “The Good Wife” and next-day streaming of the network's summer series, “Under the Dome” through its relationship with Viacom — a deal that took all Nickelodeon content away from Netflix and drove millions of kids to Prime in search of “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
The success of these streaming outlets pushed cable and broadcast networks into a new and unlikely position: HBO Go, PBS and Disney properties such as ABC, ESPN, Disney Channel and Disney Channel XD launched apps on streaming cubes like Apple TV and Roku, so that their recent programming could share on-screen menu space with Netflix and Hulu Plus. All of these were only available to those viewers with cable subscriptions so they mainly amounted to shortcuts rather than cord-cutting strategies, but their emergence said volumes about why the streamers succeeded in 2013: They made it easy.
Ease is what drives this revolution. In the late 1990s, DVD box sets made it possible for “Star Trek” devotees to own every episode without adding rooms to their houses.
Now, the original series and all the spinoffs are available for streaming with no storage needed — space truly is the final frontier.
Viewers increasingly want to watch shows on their own terms, when and where they want, and streaming makes that possible.
The inroads made by streaming video in 2013, the dramatic changes in viewership and availability in just 12 short months, mean that a similarly dramatic paradigm shift could happen in 2014 — this conversation might sound like centenarians reminiscing about Victrolas by late-2014.
But for now, it looks like the revolution will not be televised in the way Gil Scott-Heron predicted.
It will be streamed.