Here's a quick look at some other potential winners and losers as TV and movies go online:

Content providers

Paying $1 or $2 or more to download an episode of a popular TV show may seem high now. But technology will drive down the cost of content for at least two reasons.

First, the Internet makes it a lot cheaper to deliver content, which means more will be available. Second, technology is making it cheaper to produce content, which also means more will be available. When more of a product becomes available, its price normally falls; that's likely to happen to video content, too, predicts Sansoterra.

This is not good news for major content providers such as Disney, Viacom (VIA, news)or TV networks like CBS (CBS, news)and NBCUniversal, now majority-owned by Comcast. Their production costs will remain relatively high.

That could be one reason a lot of movie and TV companies have been reluctant to go online or play with Apple. They don't want to give up profits, as the music industry has. So they're wary of abandoning the cable-and-satellite distribution system that has been so good to them.

"Content creators don't want to upset what has been a pretty lucrative system for them for a long time," says Hodel.

How long they can resist, though, remains to be seen, especially as the number of Apple users keeps increasing, says Shope, at Goldman Sachs.

Traditional advertisers

The rise of online video consumption means it will be easier for advertisers to learn even more about your tastes by tracking more of what you watch. This is a dream for advertisers, because it means they can target ads more precisely. This ability to better target ads means even more ad dollars will move to the Internet, away from traditional advertising venues like newspapers, magazines and regular TV, says Sansoterra.

DVD companies

This one's fairly easy to call. Companies that now get a lot of their revenue from DVD distribution will get hit as most TV shows and movies become available quickly online.

This includes Netflix (NFLX, news)and Coinstar (CSTR, news), the company behind the Redbox DVD rental system. Content providers like Disney and Viacom may also feel some pain, since they reap profits from DVD sales.

Netflix, of course, has tried to move online, with mixed success. And if Apple does to TV what it has done with music, it may simply suck all the air out of the room.

TV manufacturers

This one's a little harder to call until we know what an Apple TV will actually look like.

Yes, iPods hold most of the music-player market, and the iPad is dominant among tablet computers. But phones powered by Google's Android are competitive with iPhones, and Macs haven't taken the market from PCs. So a flat screen from a giant like Sanyo or Samsung and running something like an Android operating system could well compete with an Apple TV.

Some potential winners

Analysts point to several possible winners in the transition to online video and TV consumption, besides Apple and Google.

Sycamore Networks (SCMR, news)has a bandwidth-management system that reduces congestion in the major pipelines of smartphone providers. It delivers popular videos to cellphone towers for distribution from that point on, reducing bandwidth consumption, says Scanlon, at John Hancock.

Eiswert, at the T. Rowe Price Global Technology fund, owns at least two companies as plays on the increased interactivity expected in the Apple TV and other devices. One is Nuance Communications (NUAN, news), which makes voice-recognition technology similar to the kind used in Siri feature on iPhones. Another is Atmel (ATML, news), which makes chips used in touch technology on phones and tablets, and probably on TVs of the future.

For other investment options, of course, there's always Apple stock. In five years it's gone from around $90 to around $425. And if you're wondering what could possibly push it higher, Apple TV may be the next big thing.

At the time of publication, Michael Brush did not own or control shares of any company or fund mentioned in this column.

Michael Brush is the editor of Brush Up on Stocks, an investment newsletter. Click here to find Brush's most recent articles and blog posts.