Chances are you watch streamed television programs and movies on your smartphone or computer. Streaming has become so popular that the days of renting videos may soon be over. But what exactly is streaming, and how is it changing entertainment?
Basically, streaming means sending audio and/or video content to a device in a continuous "stream." This content is not downloaded but can be played on the device as soon as it arrives. Unlike downloaded movies and shows, streamed content does not remain on a device after it has been watched. Most streamed videos come from previously recorded files, but live broadcasts can also be streamed. These are known as feeds.
To watch streamed content, you must subscribe to a streaming service. This will allow you to access material from the service’s video library. Three of the largest streaming services are Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
Netflix was founded in California in 1997 as a DVD sale and rental company. Its streaming service was introduced in 2007 and immediately caught on. Now a global entertainment provider, Netflix produces its own television series and films in addition to streaming other material.
Unlike Netflix, Hulu is available only in the United States and Japan. Co-owned by Disney, 21st Century Fox, Comcast, and Time Warner, it offers mostly television programs from those networks. Subscribers must pay extra to watch these programs without commercials.
The Internet shopping giant Amazon.com now has its own streaming service. Amazon Prime provides access to millions of songs, films, and television shows. Recently, Amazon has also begun producing original programs.
Streaming's popularity is easy to understand. It’s cheap, fast, mobile, and offers viewers an almost endless variety of choices. So it’s not surprising that many people binge-watch streamed content for hours or even days at a time. This has been linked to eye problems, obesity, depression, and other health issues, especially among the young. Like many other "great ideas," streaming may pose a danger to those with no self-control.