What is Streaming TV: An Overview

Reading time: 9 min read
Teddy Mitova
Written by
Teddy Mitova

Updated · Sep 29, 2023

Teddy Mitova
Social Media And Gaming Aficionada | Joined October 2021
Teddy Mitova

Teddy is a total bookworm and a curious person. She finished her graduation from the University of G... | See full bio

Ivailo Ivanov
Edited by
Ivailo Ivanov


Ivailo Ivanov
Content Writer | Joined October 2021
Ivailo Ivanov

If I was asked to describe myself using just a few words, I’d go with digital marketing expert, ex... | See full bio

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Streaming TV allows users to access their favorite shows at their own pace and on any device. Additionally, streaming TV has movies, series, news, and documentaries.

Accessibility and various content choices are the keys to streaming TV’s popularity. According to 2020 live streaming trends, Hulu is the most popular live TV streaming service in the US.

Continue reading this article to find out what streaming TV is, including:

  • How streaming works
  • What makes it better?
  • Its development over the years
  • Top streaming TV services

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Streaming TV services provide users with flexibility and convenience for watching their favorite shows.
  • It is easy to access streaming TV; it only needs an Internet connection, a compatible device, and an account in a streaming TV app.
  • There are many differences between cable TV and streaming TV, including pricing, video quality, availability, and accessibility.
  • The development of streaming TV began in the 1990s, but it wasn't until the middle of the 2000s that streaming TV online was made available. 
  • Being the 5th most giant TV in the US, YouTube TV is one of the most popular streaming services. 
  • When choosing a streaming TV service, consider its cost, available contents, and how well it works with your devices.

Defining Streaming TV

Streaming TV is a method of delivering television content anytime or anywhere through the Internet. Users access this content on multiple devices, like mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and smart TVs.

You can watch movies and TV shows through streaming TV services without downloading their content. Streaming services store the files for users. 

It then allows users to choose the content they want to watch. They also offer a variety of content—films, series, documentaries, and even sports.

Understanding How Streaming TV Works

A few things are required to access streaming TV services: an Internet connection, a compatible device, and a streaming service app. If this is all available, users can start streaming right away. 

These requirements are pretty simple. However, delivering content to users' devices from streaming sites is more complex. 

Here is how users can experience TV streaming:

Step 1: Uploading Content to Servers and Content Delivery Networks (CDN)

Streaming services upload their content files to servers. Large companies use CDNs. The network cache consists of tons of CDNs spread across the globe in various data centers. 

It distributes content quickly to avoid lag time and reduce bandwidth costs. 

Step 2: Converting to Data Packets

When the user plays the video, it starts playing from the server to the user's device in real time. From the server, the system breaks the video into smaller pieces of data.

They call these small file data packets—a single package of data units traveling along a given network. It is like a puzzle of files sent to the user’s device.

Step 3: Data Packet Transmission

As the user's device travels over networks, the IP, or Internet    Protocol, transmits the data packets to it.

Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) or User Datagram Protocol (UDP) are the common types of IP used in streaming.

Step 4: Packet Reassembly

The user's device reassembles the received packets back to the original data in the proper order using timestamps and sequence numbers. This is the content users see on the device's screen.

Step 5: Video Playback

When the device reassembles the packets, it turns them into a real-time video stream that users can watch. However, when the Internet is slow, buffering happens.

👍 Helpful Article: 

The lag between loading and playing media files causes an inconvenience to 91.8% of Internet users who watch online videos. 

See the picture below for an easier understanding of the streaming TV process.

Infographics On How Streaming TV Works 

This process works for pre-recorded content. Streaming live content is more complicated than this.

Watch this video to learn more about the live-streaming process.

Cable TV vs. Streaming TV

Though cable television and streaming TV provide entertaining content, they differ in many ways.

See the table below to explain the difference between cable and streaming TV.

Key Differences

Cable TV

Streaming TV

Mode of Delivery

Physical Cables

Utilizes Internet   

Contents and Channels

Local Broadcast Channels, Premium, and Specialty Channels

Mixed of live and on-demand videos


More Expensive 

Various price points 

Subscription Plans

Requires long-term subscription

Short-term subscription options are available


A contract is required.

No contract is required.


TV Networks set schedules for airing TV shows.

Users access the content at their own pace.

Video Quality

A mix of standard and high-definition video quality.

Offers high-definition video quality.


Available in most areas.

As long as the Internet    connection is within range.


Limited to one TV set, and a connection to the cable box is needed.

Able to watch on various devices.

These are the critical differences between cable TV and streaming TV. Users may use both or choose between the two streaming methods. However, choosing between the two depends on the user’s needs and preferences. 

Check out this tweet to see how streaming has surpassed cable TV.

Evolution of Streaming TV

Many people thought streaming TV was not possible. However, with industry trends and technological advancements, streaming TV evolved into what it is today. 

Explore the history of streaming TV and see how it has progressed.

Infographics About The Evolution of Streaming TV

  • 1990s and Early 2000s: The Beginning of Streaming

In the 1990s, people never thought a television program could fit into a limited telecommunications bandwidth. 

However, the advent of streaming services coincided with advancements in data transmission and video compression technologies.

🎉Fun Fact:

The first live-streaming event happened in 1995. It was a baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and the New York Yankees.

  • 2005 - 2010:  The Modern Streaming Period

Television series became available online in the mid-2000s as streaming services began to gain popularity.

In 2005, Google launched YouTube. The same year, Apple’s iTunes started offering television programs.

Netflix started offering streaming content in 2007; the first-generation Apple TV came with it. The following year, in 2008, Disney introduced Hulu to the market. Then, in 2010, Smart TVs took over the television market.  

Accessing Streaming TV apps made it easier for users, significantly impacting old and traditional television, as many people opted for streaming services.

  • 2011 - 2019: Introduction of Live Streaming to The Public

Twitch, a live-streaming website created as a spin-off of Justin.tv, was unveiled in 2011.  Another noteworthy occasion was the emergence of other streaming services, including HBO in 2014 and Amazon Prime in 2011. 

Various companies have introduced live TV Streaming Services to the public during this period. Sling TV launched in 2015, wherein users can live stream selected cable TV channels online. In 2016, YouTube Live came after it.

  • The 2020s Onwards: The Golden Era of Streaming

In 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak prompted a global shutdown. The government imposed restrictions and mandated social distancing.

People were forced to stay at home due to the limitations. In-person collaboration is challenging in the entertainment industry.

However, it became a chance for streaming TV to grow in popularity. More users started to appreciate the benefits of streaming TV. 

Live streaming became a medium for artists, broadcasting networks, and filmmakers to showcase their works. Since then, streaming has become a part of everyone's lives.

👍Helpful Article:

This Techjury article can assist you in determining which streaming software best suits your requirements and preferences if you want to get tips on the top streaming programs for 2023.

Top Streaming TV Services

Numerous streaming TV options are available, but users must consider cost, device compatibility, content accessibility, and channel availability while selecting a streaming TV service.

Here are the streaming services users can choose from:

1. YouTubeTV

YouTube TV is one of the most well-liked streaming services. It came in as the 5th largest TV provider in the US, with 5 million subscribers. 

Familiarity is the most significant advantage of YouTube TV over other streaming TV services. Its interface is similar to YouTube, which users have used for years.

Another feature is the YouTube TV channel line, which has over 100 channels. All streaming devices are compatible with it and can support three streams simultaneously.

With options starting at $72.99 monthly, it is more expensive than comparable streaming TV services.

✅Pro Tip:

This guide will help you cancel your YouTube TV if you have any plans, regardless of the device you use.

2. Hulu + Live TV

Hulu + Live TV is one of the most cost-effective options for streaming TV, as it has no hidden charges.

As of the beginning of 2023, Hulu had a net value of $16 billion. It offers 85+ live TV channels and is compatible with almost all streaming devices. 

There are two types of streaming content Hulu + Live TV offers: Live TV channels and on-demand videos. Additionally, it can simultaneously stream up to two devices.

Its subscription plans start at $69.99 per month.

3. Philo

Philo is the cheapest streaming TV service on this list, costing $25.00 monthly. However, compared to others, it has fewer available channels. 

It offers 70+ channels, but the good thing is that there are channels that are exclusive only to Philo. It can also cater to three simultaneous streams.

Another downside to Philo is its limited compatibility with streaming devices. It is only available on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, and Roku.

4. DIRECTV Stream

If sports are the user’s thing, the recommended streaming TV service is DIRECTV Stream. It offers over 20 specialty sports networks out of 150+ channels.

It is compatible with most devices except for LG TVs, Xbox consoles, and Vizio TVs. It caters to up to three simultaneous streams.

Prices for a monthly subscription start at $64.99/mo.

5. Sling TV

Sling TV offers plenty of add-on packages compared to other streaming TV services on this list. 

Prices change depending on the number of channels users want. 

  • Sling Orange plan -  $30/month for 30 channels
  • Sling Blue  -  $40/month for 40 channels
  • Sling Orange and Blue - $55/month for 50 channels

Sling TV is recommended for a large household. It can cater to four simultaneous streams. Plus, it is compatible with almost all devices. 

👍 Helpful Article:

Some users are looking for specific content and channels. Check out these articles to learn what streaming services offer history channels and streaming services that have Nickelodeon.


Streaming TV is an excellent choice for many users, especially those who value convenience and flexibility. The wide selection of shows and movies at a lower price than cable TV attracts many users.

With plenty of streaming TV services, users must diligently choose what to use, or they might end up subscribing to more than one. With many subscriptions to streaming TV services, users can incur extra costs.


What equipment is required to stream TV?

The equipment required to stream TV includes a device, a reliable Internet connection, and a streaming app account.

Is YouTube TV good?

Yes, YouTube TV is an excellent streaming service that provides unlimited cloud storage space for its DVR and does not have an annual contract. Users do not need to worry about an early termination fee.

Which streaming TV service is the best?

According to CNET, the best streaming service for 2023 is Netflix.


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2 years ago
I REALLY DO thank YOU for all the information that has been provided about streaming. A well prepared paper on the subject, it assists older people such as I immensely. Best regards to you from Texas, Michael

2 years ago
Thank you Michael. Glad we could help!

Va n
2 years ago
good info, have started trying streaming using Chromecast unit. Would a universal remote work> the Chromcast is too sensitive and small.

2 years ago
In theory, it should, since the physical remotes you get with most TVs work with Chromecast.

Charles Kendig
2 years ago
Helpful information--thank you.

Ross Card
1 year ago
It's all Mumbo, Jumbo to me. A way for you to make more money while people stream TV programs that they have watched dozens of times. I have no Tech knowledge so I won't understand what you are talking about. Can't I just keep watching TV as usual?

1 year ago
Hi Ross, Of course, you can keep watching TV as usual:) Regards, Deyan

Marian Stricker
1 year ago
I don’t get it. My daughter has stream. She’s constantly having to adjust or change it and it stops and starts. No ads. Just blank space. I find it tiring. At least with TV I can navigate then choose and it doesn’t stop and start. I hope we don’t have to choose streaming. I have way too many interests and lots to choose from with TV. I have a mute button and a volume control. I guess I’m stuck in my comfortable ways. Give me regular TV through our Callabyte provider. Sure better than Dish or DirectTV. It comes via our electric cooperative. No antenna either. Not affected by bad weather, either!

Clifton R. Carter
1 year ago
Teddy, this is very interesting, however what is not provided is the specific broadcast channels each of the streaming services provide. I am a fan of TCM, Hallmark Movies, CNN, Local News and college sports. Will you help me with these. Thank you. Clifton Carter