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Broadcasting vs Streaming: If they are any different?


Both these terms are closely related in meaning but have some uniqueness of their own. Most people misunderstand broadcasting and streaming to be playing the same role and use these terms interchangeably. There is a lot more at the backend that separate these terms in meaning.

Let's consider the examples to understand the significance of both: TV, FM etc are examples of broadcasting whereas Netflix, Twitch etc are examples for streaming. It has been a long time since there is a fight on the topic of Net Neutrality. This is one of the example for that. Earlier, broadcasting used to be free of cost and broadcasters would use any random frequency for broadcasting, which led to conflicts among broadcasters due to interference over same frequency. As a result of this Federal Communications Commissions was formed to regulate the frequencies. Eventually the broadcasters then had to pay the fees to FCC for getting license to broadcast. However on the other hand streamers do not have to pay these charges and they can steam anything they want on internet. This raised a question among the broadcasters that streamers are providing content to the public free of cost by bypassing broadcast regulations and licensing requirements while broadcasters have to pay fee for the same. The battle is still going on where broadcasters demand streaming to be declared as similar to broadcasting and streamers should also be charged the same amount.

This was all that happens at the backend. Let's find out how these two terms effect users. Broadcasting involves charges (monthly, yearly etc) based on which users get a package having limited channels (depending upon the subscribed package). However on the other hand users only have to pay internet access fee and they can enjoy access to unlimited content which is available online. Which means that whatever content is being broadcasted is viewable on internet through streaming websites like Netflix. Users have access to a lot more content on internet than viewing only subscribed content.

Long-story-short, Broadcasting is one-to-many signal type where various users get the same signal at nearly same time. Broadcasters like TV or radios transmit signals through high power antenna at a specific frequency that anyone can tune in. Whereas streaming is one-to-one signal type which provides dedicated signal to each user. For instance various users access a particular video on Youtube at exactly the same time, Youtube still sends separate copies of signal for each user that take different path to specific address. Suppose HBO airs a movie, it arrives at everyone's cable box at nearly the same time. While on the other hand some users watch the same movie on Netflix, every one will have a dedicated signal for them.

Another difference between broadcasting and streaming is that the content is gone after the broadcasting ends but this is not the case with streaming. User can access the content online anytime they want.

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