while watching...

While downloading, you're usually not watching (while it's
still possible to watch inclomplete files with mplayer).
if you type URL containing flash movie in browser (with flash enabled of course ;) it will start playing it before downloading all.

And for complete correctness, the video IS stored on the
harddrive "in parts" (according to the hard drive based
caching of the stream).
are you sure on harddrive not memory only? i assume you talk about youtube player.

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