Various on-demand movie and television services popping up the last few years have introduced some new terminology to many of us who are not technologically savvy, and who are just beginning to explore the vast, uncharted territories known as the worldwide web. One term that is practically a household term is streaming. The concept of streaming isn’t new. Radio and television are streamed. Streaming is, in a nutshell, a delivery method for media. We can stream anything that can be digitalized, including music, movies, sports, and television shows.
One statistic that may surprise many people is that 30% of all internet traffic today is from Netflix streams alone. And over-the-top (OTT) media consumption from distributors like Netflix, Hulu Plus and SuperPass is projected to increase by 60% within the next two years.
To clarify, there are two types of video streaming – live and on-demand. Live streaming is viewed on the internet simultaneously as a camera captures and digitally encodes the event. Progressive streaming is the type of streaming that OTT streaming providers utilize. On-demand videos are compressed files that are delivered by a streaming server. When an end-user wishes to stream a movie, for example, they will select the film and click on a play button. The OTT vendor will then deliver the requested film through specialized software called a streaming server. The streaming server will assess what is happening on the end user’s media player and make adjustments called buffering to ensure a good viewing experience. The streamed content is not saved on the end user’s hard drive. Once the content is streamed, it cannot be accessed again unless the file is requested again from the streaming service provider.
Besides streaming, there is another delivery method for these compressed files, which is called downloading. When you purchase a movie, song or TV show, you download the file from a web server (instead of a streaming server), and you save the file somewhere where you can access it whenever you wish – usually on your hard drive. Generally, at least a portion of the download must be complete before you can begin viewing the content without interruptions.
Downloads can either be rentals or purchases. If it is a rental, then the OTT provider generally gives a specified period of time from the time of rental in which to view the content before the file deletes itself. It’s important to note that downloaded files can contain viruses and malware, so make sure that you trust any source from which you download a file.
Media players can take on many forms when you stream or view your downloaded purchase. If you watch the content on your computer, you will probably utilize the media player that came with your operating system, or you may download a free or premium media player that the streaming service provider recommends. If you wish to watch on your television, you will need to utilize a gaming console, Blu-ray player, internet-enabled television set, or a streaming media player that is connected to your television and your home wireless network. It’s important to make sure that your intended media player is supported by your OTT provider.
Streaming is without a doubt here to stay as part of our entertainment options. Watch as the technology continues to improve and more options are available to consumers.
By Anne Madison
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