What Is Stream TV?

By Gina Poirier

If you missed your favorite TV show or didn't have the time to visit the video store, don't worry. With streaming TV there is no need for waiting or even getting off of the couch to view the video you want to see instantly. Streaming video to TVs is possible because of the streaming media download process and the availability of Internet TVs. These types of technology working together are transforming at-home entertainment.

Streaming Media

There are two ways to access media like audio and video files from the Internet. One way is to completely download a compressed file, decompress it, save it to a hard drive and then watch or listen to it. The other way is to stream it. When you stream a video, you watch it almost instantaneously while it is downloading and do not need to decompress it or save it in a separate process.

Internet TV

Some modern TVs, called "smart TVs," come with Internet connection capabilities. A smart TV enables you to view video and other content from the Internet without connecting it to a computer. Other devices such as Blu-ray players, video game consoles and satellite receivers also bring Internet content straight to TVs. The hardware in such TVs and external devices supports software applications or "apps" that help you navigate the Internet and download content. These apps often come already installed on the devices and are also available for download.

How Streaming TV Works

A TV connected to the Internet that has the right apps to convert video content and a subscription, when necessary, is capable of streaming TV instantly. For example, if you have a Netflix subscription and a Netflix app on your TV, the TV can display a Netflix "Instant" movie. The streaming process works like this: while a video file is downloaded, the software decompresses it and converts it into a TV video signal. It also creates a "buffer" and delays the video display for a few seconds to provide uninterrupted streaming. As a viewer, you enjoy smooth audio and video on your TV, sometimes even in high definition when it is available, depending on your network speed.

Effects on Home Entertainment

With streaming TV, people watch TV shows and movies in their homes without going to the video rental store, buying DVDs or subscribing to cable or satellite TV. Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand, Hulu and VUDU are growing in popularity while other services and retailers like Blockbuster have had to reinvent ways to provide entertainment "on demand."