Internet Streaming Snapshot

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In a digitized, fast-paced universe like the one we live in today, Internet Streaming is most valuable and widely used. According to www.webopedia.com, “streaming or media streaming is a technique for transferring data so that it can be processed as a steady and continuous stream.” The latter part indicates why exactly it’s such a hit – having a steady and continuous stream has become a necessity today; consumers no longer have the time or patience to wait for a media file to be downloaded in its entirety. To add to it, streaming has extended to most technological devices, making it possible for users to stream anytime and anywhere – whether on-the-go or from the comfort of their couch – as per their convenience.

For streaming to work effectively, however, the receiver needs to have a fast enough internet connection. Slow internet disrupts streaming, leading to problems with buffering. The buffer fills up with the content needed next; therefore, any disruption in the connection would either stop the stream or compel one to compromise on the quality of the file.

Although streaming is the quickest and most convenient way to access media on the internet, it has not always been in existence. Traditional downloads were a lot more popular earlier, where one is required to download the entire media before using it. For instance, LimeWire – a free P2P sharing software through which users could download unlimited music, movies and games – was one such hot platform earlier. After it was shut down, however, people turned to BitTorrent; and a number of torrent sites sprang up because of its increasing demand.

Progressive downloads are popular today (where the file is downloaded and saved to the device), but it has a streaming equivalent in the form of a website or an app. Although YouTube has been popular for a while now, there are a number of other websites that allow for streaming of TV shows, movies and music. Netflix is the most popular example in the USA (it is yet to gain popularity in India). It started out as a DVD rental service, but 13 years after its inception, streaming began to become more than an add-on, eventually taking over and becoming the main feature of Netflix, and then moving out to other devices as well. Today, Netflix is the world’s leading Internet television network with over 98 million members in 190 countries. Similarly, there are a number of websites/apps today – both free and paid – through which people access their favourite TV show/movie like WatchSeries, Hulu, CouchTuner, TVPlayer and so on. Despite the competition, Netflix continues to enjoy topmost position in the US, adding more than 1.5 million members in the last quarter of 2016 and 4.9 million members internationally.

With TV streaming on the rise, it is only natural that cable TV is no longer indispensable to the people. This is especially evident in India, where Star India’s Internet equivalent Hotstar is gaining more popularity than their actual TV channels. It started off as an app to allow users to watch cricket matches live since most cable services had discontinued the free availability of the Star channels. Because of its huge success – the app garnered 340 million views for all 49 matches during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 – it expanded, offering content from the entertainment, movie and sports channels owned by Star India. An article by Livemint cites Hotstar as the top of all other video streaming apps in India (with a user base of 63.4 million as of January 2017) like Voot TV, JioTV, Netflix, Amazon Prime (in terms of their monthly usage) indicating the Indian consumer’s preference for local content.

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Gone are the days when people went out and bought CDs, or even downloaded tracks off the internet – music streaming has revolutionized the way people listen to music today. SoundCloud (175 million monthly users), Spotify (50 million paid subscribers), 8tracks are popular examples – users can not only discover and listen to music across different genres, but also create their own playlists and share them with others. Additionally, SoundCloud allows users to upload their own audio tracks. Music streaming is also popular in India, with apps like Saavn (20 million monthly users, 70% of which are from India), Gaana finding favour. What sets these apart from all other music streaming apps is that regional and Bollywood music is available too, along with the popular English songs worldwide.

As can be observed in any of the aforementioned sites, when streaming first started off, it was a mere add-on to the other services offered by these sites. But with the advancement in technology, it has become easier for streaming to branch out and reach wider audiences, consequently resulting in its massive growth and popularity all around the world. While it is hard to say if this would eventually lead to elimination of the traditional forms of media consumption, it is fair to say that streaming is slowly but surely taking over.

Streaming on smartphones is most popular not only because it is convenient, but more so now because social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter have introduced live streaming, allowing users to create videos and transmit them to their followers/watch similar videos in the same instant that it is taking place. Also, all of the websites mentioned above have their very own apps (in fact, some are available only as an app), further advocating streaming on smartphones.

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