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Although initially proposed as the deployable alternative to Internet protocol multicast, the application-layer overlay network actually revolutionizes the way network applications can be built, since each overlay node is an end host and is able to carry out more functions than simply forwarding packets. The paper addresses the on-demand media distribution problem in the context of an overlay network. We take advantage of the strong buffering capabilities of end hosts, and propose a novel overlay multicast strategy, oStream. We have performed extensive analysis and performance evaluation with respect to the scalability and the efficiency of oStream. With respect to the required server bandwidth, we show that oStream defeats the theoretical lower bound of traditional multicast-based approaches, under both sequential and nonsequential stream access patterns. oStream is also robust against bursty requests. With respect to bandwidth consumption on the backbone network, we show that the benefit introduced by oStream overshadows the topological inefficiency (e.g., link stress and stretch) introduced by using application-layer multicast.