THE practice is called cord-cutting—when consumers do away with bundled subscriptions of a wide range of channels in favor of primarily Internet-based video services and mostly through mobile devices. While still primarily among the early-adopter crowd, it is a behavior that will spread and go mainstream, made inevitable by advances in technology, especially in mobile.

Right now, many of the digital video viewing is illegal, via torrents-based downloading. A popular torrents portal is among the top 20 most-visited websites in the Philippines, according to Alexa. In previous years, torrents-based downloads were limited to those technically-inclined. Today, it has become much more prevalent. When talk among friends and acquaintances turns to favorite TV programs, I’d often ask how they view it and most say via files downloaded through torrents.

Among our kids and their friends, YouTube videos viewed through smartphones and tablets are popular. I’d often offer to download videos for our youngest kid for viewing on the TV and he’d say YouTube on his tablet was enough for him.

Studies and trends reports see this behavior getting more widespread.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) did a survey in 24 countries and found that 36 percent of respondents watch videos five minutes or longer on their phones daily or even more frequently. People aren’t just viewing short clips, they are also watching long-form works, even full movies.

“Whether short or long or in-between, substantial numbers of video viewers report their video consumption on smartphones has increased year-on-year in all of the study’s participating nations, with the most prominent upticks being seen in the US,” the IAB said in its press release.

The IAB said the behavior has started to make an impact, with people watching less TV or linear TV as it is known in the industry in favor of viewing on mobile devices.

China, which recorded a 37 percent in video viewing on smartphones, and Singapore, which logged 35 percent, reported the highest incidence of watching less TV.

Apart from phones, media players are also getting more available. Prices of such devices have gone down: from Google’s Chromecast (about P2,500 in Lazada) to AppleTV, which sells for about P5,000. We use one built by known hard drive manufacturer WD and have had no complaints. There are Android-based devices “from China” that connect to your TV and will allow you to play downloaded videos or stream one from your phone.

What intermittent police raids through the years couldn’t eradicate, technology may soon sweep away: vendors of pirated DVDs. These DVDs will likely go the way of laser discs: into the trash bin of obsolescence. It has started on laptops with newer ones doing away with a DVD drive and will soon happen in media players.

A new service that launched in the country last week will accelerate that change.

iFlix is a Netflix clone that offers video on-demand for P129 a month. Yes, P129, for less than the price of five pirated DVDs you get access to 10,000 hours of movies and TV shows, according to the site. It’s a great collection: they have movies like the Lord of the Rings series or Star Trek and TV series like The Big Bang Theory, American Horror Story, Arrow, Ripper Street, Criminal Minds, and even Parts Unknown by Anthony Bourdain.

I quickly signed up and tried viewing an episode of the White Queen on the computer and found the experience enjoyable. With a device like the Chromecast, you can watch iFlix on your phone and have the video displayed on your TV. This I would pay for.

Heck, I’d pay double that monthly rate for the convenience. It’s certainly much more convenient than what local networks are doing with their initial toe-dip into digital media, primarily anchoring on livestreaming to mimic the broadcast nature of their business. ABS-CBN, however, has started to make available programs, including local newscasts, for watching at the viewers’ discretion.

The thing about new media isn’t just that it is available in digital formats; it should also be available on-demand. Viewers control when they want to watch, where they want to watch.

(max@limpag.com/http://max.limpag.com)