How do online streaming services are work?

online streaming services

Streaming makes it possible to instantly view movies online or to beam songs and films around your home.

A client end-user can use their media player to start playing the digital video content or listens to digital audio content before the entire file has been transmitted.

The term "streaming" was first used for tape drives made by Data Electronics Inc. for drives meant to slowly ramp up and run for the entire track; the slow ramp times resulted in lower drive costs, making a more competitive product. "Streaming" was applied in the early 1990s as a better description for video on demand.

The verb "to stream" refers to the process of delivering or obtaining media in the manner. The term refers to the delivery method of the medium, rather than the medium itself, and is an alternative to file downloading, a process in which the end-user obtains the entire file for the content before watching or listening to it.

In the early 1920s, George O. Squier was granted patents for a system for the transmission and distribution of signals over electrical lines which were the technical basis for what later became Muzak, a technology streaming continuous music to commercial customers without the use of radio.

There are challenges with streaming content on the Internet. If the user does not have enough bandwidth in their Internet connection, they may experience stops, lags or slow buffering in the content and some users may not be able to stream certain content due to not having compatible computer or software systems.

How does it work?

Live streaming is the delivery of Internet content in real-time, as events happen, much as live television broadcasts its contents over the airwaves via a television signal. Live internet streaming requires a form of source media (e.g. a video camera, an audio interface, screen capture software), an encoder to digitize the content, a media publisher, and a content delivery network to distribute and deliver the content. Live streaming does not need to be recorded at the origination point.

Streaming is the delivery of data over either a wired or wireless connection. But what makes it tricky is that once sent, this data must turn up at its destination in sequence and that sequence must be unbroken. Streaming gets arranging the data into sequential order before it's sent. Next, it avoids the issue through a combination of using lots of bandwidth so the stream doesn’t choke and utilizing memory in the playback device to create a buffer.

This buffer is useful, as by holding a certain amount of received data in place, it avoids drop-outs if there's a slight delay in the data arriving at the playback device.


These advances in computer networking, combined with powerful home computers and modern operating systems, made streaming media practical and affordable for ordinary consumers.

Types of streaming

A media stream can be streamed either "live" or "on demand".

Live streams are generally provided by a means called "true streaming". True streaming sends the information straight to the computer or device without saving the file to a hard disk.

On-demand streaming is provided by a means called progressive streaming or progressive download. Progressive streaming saves the file to a hard disk and then is played from that location.

On-demand streams are often saved to hard disks and servers for extended amounts of time; while the live streams are only available at one time only

Here is a list of the most popular streaming services.


Viewers can watch in standard definition on one device at a time with the Basic plan. Its standard plan throws in high definition and one more device for simultaneous streaming. And the Premium plan provides ultra-high definition and lets you stream on up to four screens at once.

Amazon Prime Video

The service has a surprisingly large collection of titles. If you already have an Amazon Prime subscription, you're in luck. Amazon Prime Video comes included for Prime members. If you aren't an Amazon Prime customer, you can subscribe to the video service along with a subscription package.

YouTube TV

YouTube TV's offerings are greater than most of the others. One benefit is unlimited DVR storage. Your recorded programs will be saved for up to nine months, compared with only about a month on some other streaming services.  YouTube TV offers more than 50 networks plus local news and sports. Also, you can create up to six accounts with your subscription, and you can stream on up to three devices at once.


You can watch your shows in virtual reality on the HBO Now VR app. You also won't have to sit through any ads.

Philo TV

Viewers can watch on up to three devices at once, or use a cloud DVR service to record shows to watch up to 30 days later.

Sling TV

Sling TV offers a sizable variety of add-ons, including country- and language-specific packages. You can get 50 hours of cloud DVR recording with a subscription package.


Users can create up to six personal viewer profiles with one subscription. Subscribers can access the Hulu Streaming Library. Viewers have access to the Hulu With Live TV plan, which features more than 50 live and on-demand channels and allows streaming on two screens simultaneously. Add-ons like enhanced cloud DVR, unlimited screens, and no commercials are also available. The service leads the industry in simultaneous streaming: Users have the option to stream on unlimited screens at the same time at home and three on the go.


The modern streaming systems can send high-definition video over broadband connections hundreds of times faster but works in essentially the same way. More users with more bandwidth, many with modern browsers that handle HTML5, have made possible ever greater use of streaming media. Collectively, the world now watches a billion hours of YouTube per day, while Facebook Video has rapidly become one of the most used features of the world's favorite social media platform since its 2015 launch. In 2017, the Pew Research Center discovered that online streaming is how a majority (almost two thirds) of young adults (aged 18–29) watch their TV programs. That's largely due to services like Netflix, the world's most popular streaming movie service, which had reached 139 million subscribers by the start of 2019; many of its movies and TV shows are available in HD. Reliable, affordable, high-quality streaming of audio and video is now the norm; two decades ago, when Rob Glaser was granted his original streaming-media patent, it would have seemed like a very distant dream.

Stock photo from Piotr Baran

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