TV on demand – Wading into the video stream

Free-to-air TV is so 80’s. On demand video streaming isn’t the future, it’s now. Content providers are already hosting some great shows. Are you up to date with today’s watching habits?

Consumer demand

Try telling a child that the show they want to watch on TV isn’t on today, or starts in a few hours.

The look you’ll get is disbelief.

Gen Z have come to expect video delivery on their terms. What they want to watch, when they want to watch it and on which device they prefer at the time, and technology has risen to meet that challenge.
For the rest of us, video streaming is a newer concept which is growing and changing the way we have been used to receiving video, and some old habits die hard. It’s time to get your head around the latest options and start to take advantage of the services already doing the rounds

What is video streaming?

Video streaming to mobileGood old DVDs are just a disk with huge amounts of data stored as 1s and 0s in a particular format. The DVD player reads this data, decodes it into a video file and sends it to the TV screen.

In a similar way, a video stream is the same data taken from the source (internet) and sent to the TV as it arrives down the internet pipe. It is watched real-time with a small buffer to compensate for changes in your download speed.

Video streaming to a TV really took off with smart TVs after TV distribution went from analogue to digital and smart TVs came with built in apps offering catch-up TV.  Next, the same apps appeared on your computer and subsequently on the tablets and mobile devices. Now, rather than buy a new TV, it’s easier and cheaper to just buy a black box device that streams video for you into one of the HDMI inputs on the TV.

Brand options

It would be hard to cover all variables here in a single post, so I’ll stick with the two main demographics of Apple and Android (read Google) users.

For Apple fans the Apple TV (ATV) brought streaming functionality and online purchasing of media to the living room and for Google/Android fans we have the Chromecast. Both have similar functionality and operation. ATV can be controlled with your iPhone / iPad and has a handy remote control too.  Operating the ATV is similar to flicking through iTunes and once you’ve found something to watch, the ATV starts the stream and playback hits either the TV screen or your device.

Google has dropped the remote in favour of your mobile device to control your entertainment through the Chromecast App. You choose what to watch on the control device, then cast the video stream to the TV leaving your mobile device free to switch off unless you want to rewind, pause or stop. In some instances, once the cast is underway, your TV remote can be used with limited control.

Mobile device or Big Screen?

Now that we have the video stream coming in from the internet, the next option is where to watch it. Nothing beats a movie on the big screen but if you are following a cooking show from your kitchen, or home renovation from the garage, a mobile device starts to make an ideal portable screen. You can even change screens mid-show to another device if all the devices are on the home network.

Data downloading

If you have a large mobile data plan you can take the show with you, and watch it on the train to work. Note: streaming video from the internet will increase your data usage, especially if you choose a higher resolution. Be wary of breaking your limit on your download plan whether watching at home or on the go. Unlimited download plans are great for this and some providers treat video streaming data differently than normal downloads so you may find your video data not counted at all if watching  video content from a particular stream. Check your plan details with your provider.

What to watch?

Social media is full of reviews of some fantastic viewing content. Games of Thrones, House of Cards, and Narcos are examples of some highly recommended streams from Netflix. Stan, Foxtel, and Amazon are also offering on demand content alongside the regular channel line up of ABC’s iView, SBS on demand, Ten play and the other channels found on the web. Alternatively you can use a site aggregator which combines all the content into one website or portal. Regular channels and Internet streaming both have them.


There’s a world of multimedia devices out there providing video streaming services and I couldn’t close this blog without mentioning Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA). Having a DLNA enabled device allows the device to show up and announce itself to other network devices as either a media player or content storage on your your network. Most modern TVs are DLNA compliant meaning that a DLNA controller can stream media from a library to a player. This opens up another level of media control inside your home, as your pc, ipad, smart phone or tablet can control, play or receive streaming content.

Sounds confusing?  As with most technology once you start using it regularly you soon get the hang of it. Failing that just call us and we can do the set up for you. Alternatively, if you have a toddler crawling around the lounge room, give them the remote and wait a few minutes. They seem to work it out fairly quickly.