PC Magazine

THE TECH BENEATH THE VIDEO STREAMING WORLD

People tend to think of video-streaming giants like Netflix and Hulu as entertainment providers, but they’re also vast, global technology companies. Underneath the new season of a show you’re binging or a live-streamed March Madness game with millions of concurrent viewers is an amalgam of interwoven technology: evolving user interfaces to keep you engaged with the content you’re searching for, high-powered backend data operations, and complex streaming-video pipelines to ensure your high-quality stream loads quickly from anywhere in the world, on any device.

Our cover story (“The New Entertainment Giants”) breaks down the increasingly competitive video-streaming landscape and how new services rolled out by big tech companies such as Apple and media conglomerates including AT&T, Comcast, and Disney are creating a content-industrial complex for consumers. We spoke to execs from Amazon Prime Video, CBS, Disney, and Hulu, as well as experts and analysts, about the content, technology, and market forces shaping this fast-evolving industry melding the tech and entertainment worlds. This companion story dives into the tech side of streaming.

At the heart of the technical complexity is one simple truth: The internet wasn’t built to stream high-quality video to millions of people.

“People talk about the technology as if we just push all the TV over the internet. It’s not set up to do that,” said streaming media consultant and expert Dan Rayburn. “The internet was not built to deliver video at great quality in large scale; it can’t physically handle it.”

HOW VIDEO STREAMS OVER THE INTERNET

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and other veteran streaming players such as CBS have spent years and millions of dollars building out their streaming infrastructure to support beaming on-demand content across the internet and the even trickier proposition of streaming live sports and other events. They also have had to figure out how to distribute that video to an increasingly connected landscape of varying devices and screens.

“Just in the last five to 10 years, we’ve gotten into this world with significantly

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