Streaming media is multimedia that is constantly received by and
presented to an end-user while being delivered by a provider. The verb
"to stream" refers to the process of delivering or obtaining media in
this 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.
A client end-user can use their media player to start playing the data
file (such as a digital file of a movie or song) before the entire
file has been transmitted. Distinguishing delivery method from the
media distributed applies specifically to telecommunications networks,
as most of the delivery systems are either inherently streaming (e.g.
radio, television, streaming apps) or inherently non-streaming (e.g.
books, video cassettes, audio CDs). For example, in the 1930s,
elevator music was among the earliest popularly available streaming
Internet television is a common form of streamed
media. The term "streaming media" can apply to media other than video
and audio such as live closed captioning, ticker tape, and real-time
text, which are all considered "streaming text".
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 on IP
networks; at the time such video was usually referred to as "store and
forward video", which was misleading nomenclature.
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
Live streaming does not need to be recorded at the
origination point, although it frequently is.
As of 2017, "streaming" generally refers to the situation where a user
watches digital video content or listens to digital audio content on a
computer screen and speakers (ranging from a smartphone, through a
desktop computer to a large-screen home entertainment system) over the
Internet. With streaming content, the user does not have to download
the entire digital video or digital audio file before they start to
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 in the content and some users may not be able to
stream certain content due to not having compatible computer or
Some popular streaming services are the video sharing website YouTube;
Twitch and Mixer, which live stream the playing of video games;
Netflix, which streams movies and TV shows; and
Spotify and Apple
Music, which stream music.
1.1 Late 1990s – early 2000s
1.2 Business developments
2 Use by consumers
2.1 Transition from a DVD based to streaming based viewing culture
3 Bandwidth and storage
5 Protocol challenges
6 Applications and marketing
9 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
In the early 1920s,
George O. Squier
George O. Squier was granted patents for a system
for the transmission and distribution of signals over electrical
lines which was the technical basis for what later became Muzak, a
technology streaming continuous music to commercial customers without
the use of radio. Attempts to display media on computers date back to
the earliest days of computing in the mid-20th century. However,
little progress was made for several decades, primarily due to the
high cost and limited capabilities of computer hardware. From the late
1980s through the 1990s, consumer-grade personal computers became
powerful enough to display various media. The primary technical issues
related to streaming were: having enough
CPU power and bus bandwidth
to support the required data rates and creating low-latency interrupt
paths in the operating system to prevent buffer underrun and thus
enable skip-free streaming of the content. However, computer networks
were still limited in the mid-1990s, and audio and video media were
usually delivered over non-streaming channels, such as by downloading
a digital file from a remote server and then saving it to a local
drive on the end user's computer or storing it as a digital file and
playing it back from CD-ROMs.
Late 1990s – early 2000s
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, users had increased access to
computer networks, especially the Internet, and especially during the
early 2000s, users had access to increased network bandwidth,
especially in the "last mile". These technological improvement
facilitated the streaming of audio and video content to computer users
in their homes and workplaces. As well, there was an increasing use of
standard protocols and formats, such as TCP/IP, HTTP, HTML and the
Internet became increasingly commercialized, which led to an infusion
of investment into the sector. The band Severe Tire Damage was the
first group to perform live on the Internet. On
June 24, 1993, the band was playing a gig at Xerox PARC
while elsewhere in the building, scientists were discussing new
technology (the Mbone) for broadcasting on the
multicasting. As proof of PARC's technology, the band's performance
was broadcast and could be seen live in Australia and elsewhere. In a
March 2017 interview, band member Russ Haines stated that the band had
used approximately "half of the total bandwidth of the internet" to
stream the performance, which was a 152-by-76 pixel video, updated
eight to twelve times per second, with audio quality that was "at
best, a bad telephone connection".
Microsoft Research developed a
Microsoft TV application which was
compiled under MS Windows Studio Suite and tested in conjunction with
RealNetworks was also a pioneer in the streaming
media markets, when it broadcast a baseball game between the New York
Yankees and the
Seattle Mariners over the
Internet in 1995. The
first symphonic concert on the
Internet took place at the Paramount
Theater in Seattle, Washington on November 10, 1995. The
concert was a collaboration between The
Seattle Symphony and various
guest musicians such as Slash (Guns 'n Roses, Velvet
Matt Cameron (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam), and Barrett Martin
(Screaming Trees). When
Word Magazine launched in 1995, they featured
the first-ever streaming soundtracks on the Internet.
Metropolitan Opera Live in HD is a program in which the Metropolitan
Opera streams an opera performance "live", as the performance is
taking place. In 2013–2014, 10 operas were transmitted via satellite
into at least 2,000 theaters in 66 countries.
The first commercial streaming product appeared in late 1992 and was
named StarWorks and enabled on demand MPEG-1 full motion videos to
be randomly accessed on corporate
Ethernet networks. Starworks was
from Starlight Networks, who also pioneered live video streaming on
Ethernet and via
Internet Protocol over satellites with Hughes Network
Systems. Other early companies who created streaming media
RealNetworks (then known as Progressive Networks)
and Protocomm both prior to wide spread
World Wide Web
World Wide Web usage and once
the web became popular in the late 90s, streaming video on the
internet blossomed from startups such as VDOnet, acquired by
RealNetworks, and Precept, acquired by Cisco.
Microsoft developed a media player known as Active
Movie in 1995 that
allowed streaming media and included a proprietary streaming format,
which was the precursor to the streaming feature later in Windows
Media Player 6.4 in 1999. In June 1999 Apple also introduced
a streaming media format in its QuickTime 4 application. It was
later also widely adopted on websites along with RealPlayer and
Windows Media streaming formats. The competing formats on websites
required each user to download the respective applications for
streaming and resulted in many users having to have all three
applications on their computer for general compatibility.
In 2000 Industryview.com launched its "world's largest streaming video
archive" website to help businesses promote themselves.  Webcasting
became an emerging tool for business marketing and advertising that
combined the immersive nature of television with the interactivity of
the Web. The ability to collect data and feedback from potential
customers caused this technology to gain momentum quickly. 
Around 2002, the interest in a single, unified, streaming format and
the widespread adoption of
Adobe Flash prompted the development of a
video streaming format through Flash, which was the format used in
Flash-based players on many popular video hosting sites, such as
YouTube, now defaulting to HTML5 video. Increasing consumer demand
for live streaming has prompted
YouTube to implement a new live
streaming service to users. Presently the company also offers a
(secured) link returning the available connection speed of the
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) revealed through
its 2015 earnings report that streaming services were responsible for
34.3 percent of the year's total music industry's revenue, growing 29
percent from the previous year and becoming the largest source of
income, pulling in around $2.4 billion. US streaming revenue
grew 57 percent to $1.6 billion in the first half of 2016 and
accounted for almost half of industry sales.
Use by consumers
Live streaming service at zoo by Niconico
These advances in computer networking, combined with powerful home
computers and modern operating systems, made streaming media practical
and affordable for ordinary consumers. Stand-alone
devices emerged to offer listeners a no-computer option for listening
to audio streams. These audio streaming services have become
increasingly popular over recent years, as streaming music hit a
record of 118.1 billion streams in 2013. In general, multimedia
content has a large volume, so media storage and transmission costs
are still significant. To offset this somewhat, media are generally
compressed for both storage and streaming. Increasing consumer demand
for streaming of high definition (HD) content has led the industry to
develop a number of technologies such as WirelessHD or
ITU-T G.hn, which are optimized for streaming HD content without
forcing the user to install new networking cables. In 1996, digital
Marc Scarpa produced the first large-scale, online, live
broadcast in history, the Adam Yauch-led Tibetan Freedom Concert, an
event that would define the format of social change broadcasts. Scarpa
continued to pioneer in the streaming media world with projects such
as Woodstock '99, Townhall with President Clinton, and more recently
Covered CA's campaign "Tell a Friend Get Covered" which was live
streamed on YouTube.
As of 2016, 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
(e.g., during the football game).
Streaming media is
increasingly being coupled with use of social media. For example,
sites such as
YouTube encourage social interaction in webcasts through
features such as live chat, online surveys, user posting of comments
online and more. Furthermore, streaming media is increasingly being
used for social business and e-learning. Due the popularity of the
streaming medias, many developers have introduced free HD movie
streaming apps for the people who use smaller devices such as tablets
and smartphones for everyday purposes.
The Horowitz Research State of Pay TV, OTT and SVOD 2017 report said
that 70 percent of those viewing content did so through a streaming
service, and that 40 percent of TV viewing was done this way, twice
the number from five years earlier. Millennials, the report said,
streamed 60 percent of content.
Transition from a DVD based to streaming based viewing culture
One of the movie streaming industry’s largest impacts has been on
the DVD industry, which effectively met its demise with the mass
popularization of online content. The rise of media streaming has
caused the downfall of many DVD rental companies such as Blockbuster.
In July 2015 an article from the New York Times published an article
about Netflix's DVD services. It stated that
Netflix is continuing
their DVD services with 5.3 million subscribers, which is a
significant drop from the previous year. On the other hand, their
streaming services have 65 million members. In a March 2016 study
assessing the “Impact of
Movie Streaming over traditional DVD Movie
Rental” it was found that respondents do not purchase DVD movies
nearly as much anymore, if ever, as streaming has taken over the
market. According to the study, viewers did not find movie quality to
be significantly different between DVD and online streaming. Issues
that respondents believed needed improvement with movie streaming
included functions of fast forwarding or rewinding, as well as search
The article highlights that the quality of movie streaming as an
industry will only increase in time, as advertising revenue continues
to soar on a yearly basis throughout the industry, providing incentive
for quality content production. 
Bandwidth and storage
Unicast connections require multiple connections from the same
streaming server even when it streams the same content
A broadband speed of 2 Mbit/s or more is recommended for streaming
standard definition video without experiencing buffering or skips,
especially live video, for example to a Roku, Apple TV,
Google TV or a Sony TV Blu-ray Disc Player. 5 Mbit/s is
recommended for High Definition content and 9 Mbit/s for
Ultra-High Definition content.
Streaming media storage size is
calculated from the streaming bandwidth and length of the media using
the following formula (for a single user and file) requires a storage
size in megabytes which is equal to length (in seconds) × bit rate
(in bit/s) / (8 × 1024 × 1024). For example, one hour of digital
video encoded at 300 kbit/s (this was a typical broadband video in
2005 and it was usually encoded in a 320 × 240 pixels window size)
will be: (3,600 s × 300,000 bit/s) / (8×1024×1024) requires around
128 MB of storage.
If the file is stored on a server for on-demand streaming and this
stream is viewed by 1,000 people at the same time using a Unicast
protocol, the requirement is 300 kbit/s × 1,000 = 300,000 kbit/s =
300 Mbit/s of bandwidth. This is equivalent to around 135 GB per
hour. Using a multicast protocol the server sends out only a single
stream that is common to all users. Therefore, such a stream would
only use 300 kbit/s of serving bandwidth. See below for more
information on these protocols. The calculation for live streaming is
similar. Assuming that the seed at the encoder is 500 kbit/s and if
the show lasts for 3 hours with 3,000 viewers, then the calculation is
number of MBs transferred = encoder speed (in bit/s) × number of
seconds × number of viewers / (8*1024*1024). The results of this
calculation are as follows: number of MBs transferred = 500 x 1024
(bit/s) × 3 × 3,600 ( = 3 hours) × 3,000 (number of viewers) /
(8*1024*1024) = 1,977,539 MB
The audio stream is compressed to make the file size smaller using an
audio coding format such as MP3, Vorbis, AAC or Opus. The video stream
is compressed using a video coding format to make the file size
smaller. Video coding formats include H.264, HEVC,
VP8 or VP9. Encoded
audio and video streams are assembled in a container "bitstream" such
as MP4, FLV, WebM, ASF or ISMA. The bitstream is delivered from a
streaming server to a streaming client (e.g., the computer user with
their Internet-connected laptop) using a transport protocol, such as
Adobe's RTMP or RTP. In the 2010s, technologies such as Apple's HLS,
Microsoft's Smooth Streaming, Adobe's HDS and non-proprietary formats
MPEG-DASH have emerged to enable adaptive bitrate streaming
HTTP as an alternative to using proprietary transport protocols.
Often, a streaming transport protocol is used to send video from an
event venue to a "cloud" transcoding service and CDN, which then uses
HTTP-based transport protocols to distribute the video to individual
homes and users. The streaming client (the end user) may interact
with the streaming server using a control protocol, such as MMS or
Designing a network protocol to support streaming media raises many
Datagram protocols, such as the User
(UDP), send the media stream as a series of small packets. This is
simple and efficient; however, there is no mechanism within the
protocol to guarantee delivery. It is up to the receiving application
to detect loss or corruption and recover data using error correction
techniques. If data is lost, the stream may suffer a dropout. The
Real-time Streaming Protocol (RTSP), Real-time Transport Protocol
(RTP) and the
Real-time Transport Control Protocol (RTCP) were
specifically designed to stream media over networks. RTSP runs over a
variety of transport protocols, while the latter two are built on top
Another approach that seems to incorporate both the advantages of
using a standard web protocol and the ability to be used for streaming
even live content is adaptive bitrate streaming.
HTTP adaptive bitrate
streaming is based on
HTTP progressive download, but contrary to the
previous approach, here the files are very small, so that they can be
compared to the streaming of packets, much like the case of using RTSP
and RTP. Reliable protocols, such as the Transmission Control
Protocol (TCP), guarantee correct delivery of each bit in the media
stream. However, they accomplish this with a system of timeouts and
retries, which makes them more complex to implement. It also means
that when there is data loss on the network, the media stream stalls
while the protocol handlers detect the loss and retransmit the missing
data. Clients can minimize this effect by buffering data for display.
While delay due to buffering is acceptable in video on demand
scenarios, users of interactive applications such as video
conferencing will experience a loss of fidelity if the delay caused by
buffering exceeds 200 ms.
Multicasting broadcasts the same copy of the multimedia over the
entire network to a group of clients
Unicast protocols send a separate copy of the media stream from the
server to each recipient.
Unicast is the norm for most Internet
connections, but does not scale well when many users want to view the
same television program concurrently.
Multicast protocols were
developed to reduce the server/network loads resulting from duplicate
data streams that occur when many recipients receive unicast content
streams independently. These protocols send a single stream from the
source to a group of recipients. Depending on the network
infrastructure and type, multicast transmission may or may not be
feasible. One potential disadvantage of multicasting is the loss of
video on demand functionality. Continuous streaming of radio or
television material usually precludes the recipient's ability to
control playback. However, this problem can be mitigated by elements
such as caching servers, digital set-top boxes, and buffered media
Multicast provides a means to send a single media stream to a group
of recipients on a computer network. A multicast protocol, usually
Internet Group Management Protocol, is used to manage delivery of
multicast streams to the groups of recipients on a LAN. One of the
challenges in deploying IP multicast is that routers and firewalls
between LANs must allow the passage of packets destined to multicast
groups. If the organization that is serving the content has control
over the network between server and recipients
(i.e., educational, government, and corporate intranets), then
routing protocols such as Protocol Independent
Multicast can be used
to deliver stream content to multiple
Local Area Network
Local Area Network segments. As
in mass delivery of content, multicast protocols need much less energy
and other resources, widespread introduction of reliable multicast
(broadcast-like) protocols and their preferential use, wherever
possible, is a significant ecological and economic challenge.[citation
Peer-to-peer (P2P) protocols arrange for prerecorded streams
to be sent between computers. This prevents the server and its network
connections from becoming a bottleneck. However, it raises technical,
performance, security, quality, and business issues.
Applications and marketing
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December
Useful – and typical – applications of the "streaming" concept
are, for example, long video lectures performed "online" on the
Internet. An advantage of this presentation is that these lectures
can be very long, indeed, although they can always be interrupted or
repeated at arbitrary places. There are also new marketing concepts.
For example, the
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra sells
streams of whole concerts, instead of several CDs or similar fixed
media, by their so-called "Digital Concert Hall"  using
YouTube for "trailing" purposes only. These "online concerts" are also
spread over a lot of different places – cinemas – at various
places on the globe. A similar concept is used by the Metropolitan
Opera in New York. Many successful startup ventures have based their
business on streaming media. There also is a livestream from the
International Space Station.
Media that is live streamed can be recorded through certain media
players such as VLC player, or through the use of a Screen Recorder.
Livestreaming platforms such as Twitch may also incorporate a video on
demand system that allows automatic recording of live broadcasts so
that they can be watched later.
See also: Copyright aspects of downloading and streaming
Streaming copyrighted content can involve making infringing copies of
the works in question. Streaming, or looking at content on the
Internet, is legal in Europe, even if that material is
Information technology portal
Comparison of music streaming systems
Comparison of streaming media systems
Comparison of video streaming aggregators
Comparison of video hosting services
Content delivery platform
Digital Living Network Alliance
Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA)
HTTP Live Streaming
List of streaming media systems
Protection of Broadcasts and
Broadcasting Organizations Treaty
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^ The corresponding
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Internet television and radio (Webcast
BitTorrent television and movies)
Pirate radio / Pirate television
Adult television channels
Children's interest channel / Children's television series
Men's interest channel
Movie television channels
Music radio /
Sports television channels
Women's interest channel
Broadcast television systems
Digital on-screen graphic
Television news screen layout
Web syndication technology
Feed URI scheme
RSS Advisory Board—Usenet: .net
World Wide Web
World Wide Web + (-let)
Glossary of blogging
Pay per click
Spam in blogs
Uses of podcasting