When the internet first caught on with consumers in the mid-to-late 1990s, people had to buy a modem, hook it up to their computer and a phone line and dial the phone number for their local internet service provider (ISP). Connections were miserably slow.
The web was not designed to stream audio or video when it was first created in the 1960s, but enterprising developers found a way to help customers listen to real-live audio and the first live audio streaming event was broadcast on Sept. 5, 1995, for a game between the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees. It was novel at first, and there wasn't a lot of long-form content. Between maddeningly slow connections and glitchy software no one was going to sit down to watch a movie on their home computer.
In just a few short years, technologies improved to make streaming video and audio more of an everyday occurrence. Companies like Netflix and Hulu delivered live movies and television. Content creators such as Paramount and Disney started their own video streaming networks, and tech giants like Apple and Amazon joined in. You can watch old classic TV shows or the latest movies on demand.
Streaming audio has matured as well. You can listen to live sports around the world, or turn your computer or smartphone into a custom radio channel with music providers like Deezer, Pandora, and Spotify. People commute to work or the grocery store listening to true-crime podcasts or the latest audiobooks.
In the last decade, audio and video streaming became popular enough to encourage cable and satellite TV providers to "cut the cord" and canceled their cable or satellite TV subscriptions for cheaper streaming options. In June 2021, media research company Nielsen revealed that streaming video has become more popular than over-the-air TV in the United States. Streamers' share of the market was 26 percent to over-the-air TV's 25 percent. That may not seem like much, especially when cable TV still had 39 percent of the market, but streaming media is likely to continue to grow, and cable subscriptions likely to decline.
You may have participated in a live streaming broadcast yourself. During the COVID-19 pandemic many people tuned in for remote meetings or online classes. Tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet can handle live audio and video streaming simultaneously in one broadcast. It's a little like when the telephone companies promised us videophones in the mid-20th century, only better.