A streaming media receiver is a set-top box that connects to a television to play content from one or more video streaming services.
Essentially, streaming media receivers are specialized low power and quiet computers. Their purpose is to enable alternatives to the traditional cable TV and satellite subscription services (see: cord cutting). The receivers can also generally play from local media, like an internal or external drive, taking over duties that could otherwise be performed by a smart TV or a computer connected to the television.
Receivers vary in terms of the content subscription services or types of files they can play; the devices typically act as a digital gateway to particular streaming services rather than allowing the user to play any available content.
Some of the more popular devices include Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast and Western Digital Live.
The devices are also known as streaming media players. However, strictly speaking, it's the TV that actually plays the content.