A loungeroom revolution is brewing in Australia as an onslaught of technology providers vie for a slice of the home entertainment market once dominated by television networks.
The battle for our eyes is being fought on several fronts, according to a study commissioned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which revealed that one in five Australians had already viewed full-length television programs over the internet with one in eight full-length films online.
ISPs are working alongside various hardware and software partners to tie together packages that make it increasingly attractive to download movies, games and even favourite television shows via the internet.
Traditional TV networks have also been promoting 'catch-up' TV content which can be accessed online for those who missed the scheduled screening.
"With higher internet speeds and increasing bandwidth capacity, increasingly consumers are less restricted to viewing their favourite programs according to a predetermined schedule or on a single device, such as the family television," says ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman. "Already, we've seen television 'catch-up' services gathering popularity in Australian households."
So where will that leave the giant flatscreen TV you so recently had mounted on the wall?
Given that many of the new breed of internet TV services incorporate set-top boxes, much of this new content will be routed seamlessly from your computer to your TV screen.
TV manufacturers such as Sony and Samsung are determined not to be left out of this converging landscape and have already begun showing off spanking new models loaded with useful web features and widgets for checking the weather, downloading movies or YouTube clips and even updating Twitter.
Even the internet search giant Google has jumped into the fray with some ambitious internet TV plans of its own, bringing the power of search to all the entertainment content available on the internet.
According to ACMA, traditional content viewing services such as free-to-air and subscription broadcasting are still "the overwhelming backbone for video and television viewing in Australia" but it warns that the barrage of new content channels will increase the fragmentation of audiences, with "unknown ramifications on content owners, distributors, broadcasters and regulators".
While it is unlikely there will be room for everyone to play in the lounge room of the future, there is no shortage of contenders prepared to try their hand. Here is round up of the key players in Australia.
Telstra's T box
The new T-Box connects the BigPond internet service to a television, offering a PVR feature for free-to-air content, and 7-day program guide which allows recording, pausing and rewinding of live TV or watching one channel while recording another.
The service includes a catalogue of a BigPond video-on-demand movie, television and other content such as YouTube videos.
Content partners include Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM), Disney, Warner Bros, Sony, Paramount, Village Roadshow, Icon, Umbrella and Hopscotch.
Cost: T-Box will be priced at $299 outright, or eligible customers can add it to one of Telstra's bundles and pay it off over 24 months. While BigPond content will not impact download allowance, access to external content from YouTube will.
Setup: The Telstra T-Box is designed to work with HDMI TVs or units with composite or component inputs. It also requires a digital TV aerial and digital TV reception.
Broadband router/modem also required with either an Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection and a computer with internet access to register the T-Box and access BigPond movies.
It also requires a subscription to BigPond Cable or BigPond Elite in ADSL 2+ enabled areas.
Availability Launched last month and available now through Telstra.
Fetchtv is a new wholesale pay-TV provider that is teaming up with Australian ISPs to offer a set top box for viewing and recording free-to-air digital television, as well as subscription TV channels, video downloads and interactive applications such as Facebook and Twitter.
Fetchtv is accessible through broadband service providers signed up as FetchTV partners and iiNet has already begun rolling out the service.
TV and video downloads are unmetered (although ISPs may meter use of interactive content) and it also provides access access popular internet based social media and games.
Cost: iiNet: Rent: $29/month $99.95 OR Buy: $19.95/month $399 purchase
Availability: Available now through iiNet for users in select locations. Internode will begin rolling out the service later in year and other ISPs are expected to participate.
Set up: Fetchtv requires a direct Ethernet or naked DSL connection. ISP partners do not currently support wireless connections and there is an additional fee for high definition content. Also requires an ethernet cable to connect modem to your television or a Powerline Communications device can be used to connect the modem to the Fetch TV set top box.
TiVo is a sophisticated personal video recorder for free-to-air channels and has been on the market since 2008. It can record in both standard and high definition and will is also able to record 3D content for compatible televisions. It includes many additional features such as series links and a user friendly remote control. It has also introduced movie and television downloads bundled up as service called Caspa-on-Demand.
A home networking package has also been released that can connect the set top box with a PC or Mac (additional third party Roxio Toast 10 Titanium software required) to share programming between your TiVo and your computer, stream music and photos to your media device, and take recordings outside of the home on compatible portable devices.
Cost: One upfront cost of $699. Home networking now available for ($199).
Set up: Users need a standard or high definition TV, HDMI cable, TV antenna connection, Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection and a computer with internet access to download electronic program guide.
Availability: through electronics retailers.
PlayTV is a personal video recording add-on device for the PlayStation 3 game console and Blu-ray disc player, recording free-to-air television in standard and high definition. It includes a 7-day electronic program guide and lets viewers to record one channel in high definition while watching another channel or playing a game.
The service also includes VidZone music video streaming, video, photo album, web browsing and PlayStation Network content that comprises games, online play, video downloads.
Cost: $169.95 upfront with no ongoing subscription costs.
Availability: Available from electronics retailers since November last year
Setup: Users need to have a PlayStation 3 game console, USB cable and connection to TV aerial with standard RF cable. PlayTV software is bundled.
Foxtel by Xbox LIVE
Foxtel by Xbox LIVE will provide live subscription television over the internet direct to a TV using the Xbox 360 game console as a set top box. Users will have to access to 30 subscription TV channels, On Demand content and catch-up television in both high and standard definition.
Cost: Specific packaging and pricing announcements will not be made until closer to the end-of-year launch
Availability: Due to launch in Q4 this year in Foxtel serviced. areas across Australia
Setup: Access to the service requires an Xbox 360 game console, an Xbox Gold subscription ($8) and a Foxtel by Xbox LIVE subscription. A high-speed broadband connection with generous download limits is also necessary.
Google's Android software and Chrome web browser will drive this new television platform which will let users to sift through live programs, DVR recordings and the internet, producing a readily accessible list of search results.
Although there are already internet-capable televisions available on the market, many currently only allow users limited access to specific websites such as Yahoo or YouTube.
Google says its TV offering will be far broader, integrating much more of the everyday internet content, which can then be streamed live to users.
Availability: Although it is expected to be available at the end of the year in the US, Google TV will not be available in Australia until 2011.
Set up: The service will initially be accessible only through Sony web-enabled televisions and Blu-Ray players or via a Logitech set-top box.
This story was originally published in the Digital Life section.