"All rooms have every movie ever made -- in every language -- anytime, day or night."
It was a sci-fi vision of the future when the bored motel clerk in the 1999 Qwest TV commercial suggested that the guest could choose among tens of thousands of movies, rather than just a dozen or so pay-per-view options. But just 13 years later, that lofty "everything on demand" entertainment utopia is, by and large, our day-to-day reality.
Appointment viewing? Fuggedaboutit. "Live" network TV ratings are sliding, even as the overall consumption of those programs is actually inching up. This year saw groundbreaking hardware like the Dish Hopper, a DVR that records six programs simultaneously, giving you instant access to an entire week's worth of prime time TV -- with the ability to autoskip commercials, to boot. And that doesn't even count services Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, and HBO Go, perfect for catchup binge viewing on your favorite series, when you want, where you want -- on the TV screen, your tablet, your phone, your computer, or any place else.
The same is true for music, too. Waiting for your favorite song on the radio is already as archaic as a horse and buggy, but even the iTunes and Amazon method of buying music by the song is looking old-fashioned in the age of Spotify and its army of on-demand competitors (Rdio, Mog, Rhapsody, and Sirius XM -- just to name a few), all offering access to vast cloud-based music collections for a small monthly fee.
Ditto for books, magazines, and games -- your virtual libraries just a tap away on your tablet and phone, rather than trapped on your living room shelf.
No, 2012 wasn't the first time we saw these innovations, but it may have been the year they all started to feel like the new normal -- and that's a sea change from the top-down media landscape that was your only choice just a few short years ago.