Monday, March 28, 2011

Netflix Lowers Data Usage By 2/3 For Members In Canada

This is Neil Hunt, Chief Product Officer, to tell our members in Canada that starting today, watching movies and TV shows streaming from Netflix will use 2/3 less data on average, with minimal impact to video quality.

Now Canadians can watch 30 hours of streaming from Netflix in a month that will consume only 9 GBytes of data, well below most data caps.

We made these changes because many Canadian Internet service providers unfortunately enforce monthly caps on the total amount of data consumed.

In the past, viewing 30 hours of Netflix could consume as much as 70 GBytes, if it was all in HD, and typically about 30 GBytes. While there is some lessening of picture quality with these new settings, the experience continues to be great. If any member wants to change back to higher data usage and video quality, they can do so on the Manage Video Quality page, found under Your Account.

We will continue to test and innovate to improve the Netflix experience without high data use.

Neil

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P.S. Lots of technical details below for those interested.

We've created three settings:
  1. "Good" - The default setting with good picture quality and lowest data use per hour (about 0.3 GBytes/hour)
  2. "Better" - Better picture quality and medium data use per hour (about 0.7 GBytes/hour)
  3. "Best" - Best picture quality and highest date use per hour (generally about 1.0 GBytes/hour - or up to 2.3 GBytes/hour when streaming HD content)
Any member can adjust the settings anytime by visiting the Manage Video Quality page, found under Your Account.

At all settings, Netflix adaptive streaming may choose a lower data rate stream if your connection is lower speed or, in the case of congestion, in order to minimize interruptions.

Also, at all settings, Netflix streams a little bit of additional data as a buffer each time you start a movie or TV show. Frequent starts and stops, or rewind/seek activity, will slightly increase the amount of data Netflix streams to you per hour. In most cases this will amount to less than a few minutes' worth.

The "Good" setting limits video/audio to 625 kbps/64 kbps. With this setting, 30 hours of content would be up to 9 GBytes per month.

The "Better" setting limits video/audio to a maximum of 1300 kbps/192 kpbs. With this setting, 30 hours of content would be less than 20 GBytes per month.

The "Best" setting will use any of the video/audio rates available. Our highest quality files are 4800 kbps (for 1080p HD video) and 384 kbps audio (for 5.1 audio). 30 hours of this highest quality streaming would be less than 67 GBytes. However, only a selection of movies and TV shows are available at these rates, and in many cases, the effective video/audio upper limit for non-HD content is 2200 kbps/192 kbps. At that rate, 30 hours of streaming is less than 31 GBytes.