Streaming is defined as any media content such as television programs, live events, sports, gaming, concerts, radio podcasts, movies, documentaries. It can be in any multimedia format (audio or video) that can be accessed on multiple devices from any part of the world just by connecting to high-speed internet access. Example: Netflix, Youtube, Amazon, Peacock, Disney+s, Spotify, Twitch.

Generally speaking, there are two modes of streaming the content

  1. Live -Streaming.
  2. Recorded / Archived / On-demand – Streaming.

Typically, the media content is hosted by big streaming service providers in their video sharing portals, websites, or apps available for the end-users. The availability of content can be free or paid (subscriptions) depends on service providers. This entire process of streaming to the users follows all basic HTTP/ HTML protocols. In the case of live events, you can watch the video in real-time from any corner of the world, for instance, we can watch a live launch of new Apple products from California while having dinner in India.

In contrast to traditional media, streaming media grants users to choose from a diverse collection of content around the world at any time. Users can pause, rewind or fast forward the content at convenience. Can access the same content repetitively any number of times without the hassle of downloading or storage issues. It also provides the space for content creators to share their talents and hobbies with like-minded users.

Today with the growth of streaming media, awareness about common problems, challenges, collaborations are increasing exponentially among users.  People can experience/share real-time socio-economic changes around the world through streaming for example – Black Lives Matter, Myanmar protests against the military, Israel – Palestine tensions…. etc.

How does Streaming work?

Streaming is the process of taking a digital video/ audio signal and transferring it online for multiple media players so users all over the world can access it. This entire process takes place in real-time for the live streams. The process follows these basic steps:

  1. A camera or audio recorder captures the frames of video/ audio during filming in real-time; converts this signal into a continuous digital signal.
  2. An encoder then compresses the signal data from Gigabytes to megabytes data for faster transmission.
  3. Then the data is packed into multiple protocols for transport over the internet to different devices of users.
  4. These packets of the stream are transferred to media servers where the packets are regrouped to meet the needs of different media players while the original content remains unchanged. It converts the content of the stream into multiple media players, multiple versions of byte rates, and different resolutions.
  5. Distribute the stream digital signals to a worldwide audience using global content networks and CDN (content delivery networks) with minimum time latency, making the user watch the stream in real-time as close as possible.
  6. If the above steps are done right, multiple users can watch the stream on different devices – setup boxes, internet browser, apps in different resolutions, speeds, media players.

In the case of recorded streaming, the streaming service providers upload the recorded content in their servers as a part of CDN (content delivery network). These servers are installed worldwide to make data closer to the users, increase the speed, and add redundancy. If one of the servers fails, they can connect to the next nearest location. Some of the streaming providers took it to the next level and started to store the database with IP providers to offer more speed to its users. 

At the request of the user, the provider retrieves the content data and converts it as per the user’s needs, and plays the video or audio.

Types Of Streaming Service Providers:

Streaming providers deliver the content either free or Paid (through monthly/ yearly subscriptions). Different providers offer different types of content, some provide only one type of content. There are more than 150 streaming providers around the world. 

Usually, content ranges from TV Sitcoms, documentaries, live concerts, live- T.V broadcasts, Gaming events, Personal live blogs, webinars, Universities graduation ceremonies, music, podcast, Video live chats, movies, and movies, sports… etc. These days streaming providers are coming up with their exclusive original produced content to attract more audiences. Streaming is increasing its demand and popularity as people around the world are opting for its convenience and affordability.

Streaming providers can offer more multimedia content or event-oriented services, they can mix streaming services.

1.On-Demand Video Streaming: 

Earlier in the ‘90s and ’00s, people used to lend DVDs on a rental basis to enjoy their favorite theatre movies/ shows at home in their leisure time. Based on this model, streaming providers came up with 2 models of video demand streaming.

  1. Subscription-based streaming.
  2. Pay/rent-based streaming.

In subscription-based streaming, users are given access to large libraries of content by streaming providers, provided users pay monthly/ yearly based fees. Users can watch from any device at their convenience. Providers offer a trial period for users before opting for a subscription and can cancel anytime. They offer different subscription plans based on the number of users and devices too. Example: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, Zee5, Alt Balaji, HBO Max, etc.

In pay/rent-based streaming, audiences are given access to content in exchange for a fee. The access may be rental bases for a fixed time or lifetime access depending on the provider or content creator. Usually, streaming websites/portals host content creators for audiences and content creators fix the pricing based on hosting n time. Examples: Showtime.com, MAZ Systems, Diecast, etc.

2.Live Streaming: 

The content is broadcasted in real-time, it can be audio or video mode for users to watch/ listen. These streams are hosted by different streaming providers – websites/portals or apps over the internet. Access to live content can be free or paid (subscriptions/entry fee) or optional donations depending upon provider and content creator. Many creators can connect with fans live via video chats and live feeds, gaming events, unboxing events, webinars. Examples: Youtube live, Disney+, Twitch, Social Media Live, etc.

3.Free Streaming:

Users are given access for free by streaming providers. Usually, most of the free content is ad-supported. If the user is willing to put up with the advertisement in between/ beginning/ at the end of streaming, people can enjoy free content. Typically, streaming providers have a mix of paid and free content in their libraries for the user to have options; Mostly domestic content is free and international ones are paid. 

Any person can create any content – educational, personal blog (opinions on movies, products, or day-to-day activities) and post on streaming services for users to enjoy and interact via chats or video feeds. Live Tv news, Live TV channel Broadcast are some of the providers.  Example: Youtube, MX player, Viu, Voot, Zee5, Sun NEXT, etc.

4.Music Streaming:

Similar to on-demand video streaming, large libraries of audio content are given access to users either free or paid (subscriptions based) by streaming providers. In addition to audio content, some providers are hosting audio shows, personal podcast channels for users to enjoy. Examples: Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, etc.

5.Sports Streaming:

The streaming is dedicated to sports events either live or recorded. Users are given access to Specific sport content libraries. Examples: ESPN, MLS, etc.

Streaming Devices:

 To connect streaming media to your T.V/home theatre and internet to stream content you may need separate streaming devices. Example: Amazon fire stick, Apple TV 4k, Roku streaming sticks, etc.

These devices generally offer a wide range of streaming provider portals/ apps like Netflix, amazon prime, voot, zee5, amazon music, etc. Simply connect the device to the T.V using an HTML port and connect the device to the home internet; you can stream multimedia content non-stop. Some devices come with unique features such as internal storage, voice recognition A.I, 4K definition. Even some Blu-ray players and video gaming consoles can act as streaming devices.

Countries around the globe irrespective of their economics are now focused on increasing internet reach to their people and spending on infrastructures that help build high-speed communications. Ongoing pandemic is accelerating the push for high-speed internet. The more people are accessing the internet, the more likely to get attracted to streaming media services.

As of now, the streaming media market is on an increasing trend with 18% around the world and is likely to increase to 50% by the end of 2026. Even Streaming service providers are interested in creating cost-effective, efficient ways to make their services for users. Further, they are focused on future technologies to roll out higher resolutions and speeds.

So with so much online content & multiple streaming platforms, tell us in the comments below, which is your favorite streaming service.

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Gagana Tummala

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