I was a little frustrated when I discovered that Hulu only had season 4 of Parks & Recreation. Though I’m a little late to the party for this smart comedy, I had dreams of binge-viewing the entire run…and now those hopes were dashed. Thinking that I’d have to start at Season 1 on disc, I turned to old reliable Red (aka Netflix) to put those DVDs into my queue and then endure the interminable one day wait for them to start arriving in my mailbox. I was surprised AND pleased to discover, however, that Seasons 1-3 were available to stream. Huzzah! I needn’t even leave my couch (AND no commercials). This happy occurrence got me thinking about the nature of the current ‘always on’ TV universe. So many shows are available on one platform or another at one time or another…here now, there later…as the giant streaming brands jockey for market position and leadership. Parks & Rec is just one case in point. Another case, perhaps more clear cut, is Viacom’s properties Dora and Blues Clues which were on Netflix quite recently. However, Netflix let the rights to these family favorites lapse, prompting Amazon to snapped them up with the addition of a dash of exclusivity. (Well played, Amazon.) Of course, Netflix isn’t backing away from family viewing. Nay, nay. The recent deal for Disney family-friendly content keeps them in the game. How different the major platforms can be if they’re merely shuffling around content from one portal to the next? Will customers really see the brand delivering content to their homes, or will the delivery service ID be overshadowed by the much stronger show identity and brand? Will parents really care where they can get 98 episodes of SpongeBob or will they simply be happy being able to access it anywhere? (I don’t; my SpongeBob-loving daughter doesn’t.) The major streaming platforms are working to differentiating themselves with new original content, producing their own shows viewable nowhere else (unless you’re an unabashed pirate). When watching an original production like Arrested Development, the connection between Netflix and the show is easier make. But what about the other content? I’d argue that it’s hard to tell. Could it be long before the major streaming platforms introduce something identify themselves and their ‘exclusive’ (or ‘exclusive-for-now’) content? For example, the ‘bug’ you see in the corner of live television broadcasts was introduced to provide a “…permanent visual station identification, increasing brand recognition and asserting ownership of the video signal.“ It first arrived on American television screens in 1993, introduced first by VH-1, the MTV and finally the big four networks in the fall of that year and has become a staple of broadcast television. For reasons such as this, it seems as though the streaming portals are inching toward a familiar model — the television network. It’s no secret that Netflix aspires to be HBO, a destination channel which itself pioneered a whole new segment of home entertainment back int the 1980’s, just as Netflix has done and continues to do. While the manner of delivery may be different, streaming via over-the-air-broadcast or cable, the parallels are unmistakable. Fifteen months ago, I was pessimistic about Netflix’s future, but Netflix has made some pretty smart moves lately, moves which are defining this new consumer segment and the future of home-viewed entertainment. The future is an exciting time in which to live.