How Does an Online TV Stream Work?

By Billy Kirk


Video content can be delivered in a variety of ways, but streaming content is often an optimal choice of many users. Streaming content differs greatly by nature from downloading content. This is largely because nothing is being permanently stored on the computer and the quality can (but not always) be visibly poorer. However, the benefit of streaming video or other content is that streaming downloads are quicker and easier, and one doesn't have to wait for content to arrive on one's computer. The file that is desired does not need to be downloaded in full and then opened. Instead, programming can be played back literally as it is received, which saves time and results. Originally, instant delivering of segments of video for immediate playback was not widely possible for consumers, but the advent of DSL and now more impressive broadband Internet solutions has upped speed to a point where streaming on a regular basis--even video--is very viable and easily performed. All computers are now capable of performing this feat with ease.

Compression and Related Processes

At the heart of the streaming process there are a number of key words and processes that must be understood. Compression occurs with sreaming, as it does with most processes involved with media. Compression takes video and audio and shrinks them for optimal delivery in a shorter time. The size of the file and its ability to play back and operate correctly on any one computer is also determined by its file size. Finally, the act of digitalization takes the information and transfers it into binary code, which is a language computers understand (a series of 0s and 1s only).

Packaging and Delivery

The process itself is fairly straightforward. Information is not sent all at once, but is instead bottled up and segmented into packets and sent. This method of delivery makes the segments sent smaller and more easily digestable by the receiving computer. The added benefit of streaming is that data need not be rushed as fast as theoretically possible. Instead, information need only be sent as quickly as the user needs it, or in other words, sent and received by the computer before the last packet of information has completed playback. As long as the user can download from the server at the suggested bandwidth speed, he will benefit from seamless and uninterrupted playback of the streaming material.