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Netflix Disputes Olympics Impact on Streaming

3 Aug, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Netflix is challenging an online report that claims the subscription video-on-demand service’s streaming traffic has dropped during the ongoing London Summer Olympics, including 25% on the second day of full competition at the Games, which began July 27 with the opening ceremonies.

Procera Networks, a Fremont, Calif.-based provider of network security software, cited the decline earlier in the week in a post on its website that claimed peak Netflix streaming traffic declined in the United States, underscoring the Games’ popularity among domestic online viewers.

Indeed, NBC Universal, which is broadcasting more than 5,000 hours of Games coverage — much of it in primetime, is also streaming 3,500 hours of competition online to authenticated viewers. To date, the Games have set TV ratings records, which suggest expanded online interest as well.

Procera said streaming of the Olympics in North America increased 100% on July 29 from July 28, with bandwidth traffic usage peaking at 34% on the July 29. Notably, Netflix streaming in Canada was unaffected, suggesting lower consumer interest in the event.

A Netflix spokesperson cited a July 30 Sandvine blog post that found Netflix streaming traffic actually grew during the first weekend of the Games — contradicting Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who cautioned analysts July 24 saying the Olympics could impact the SVOD service’s traffic and subscriber sign-ups. 

Sandvine reported that streaming traffic during the first weekend of the Games did increase 15% during coverage of select events — notably swimming. 

“While it is too early to tell what impact the full two-week event will have on [Netflix’s] traffic levels (the first weekend has few marquee events), we would not be surprised to see the Olympics have little to no impact on Netflix and for their traffic to continue to slowly grow organically, even if it might not be growing as fast as other real-time entertainment applications,” wrote Dan Deeth, with Sandvine.

Meanwhile, Procera, in a statement to HuffingtonPost.com, said the initial data was taken from select network operators that use its software and should not be representative of global or even U.S. streaming trends.

“The data was aggregated across a number of our customers that saw a dip in traffic on Sunday in Netflix, and a rise in Olympics streaming. We have a mix of large and small customers, cable and DSL, so some networks are more sensitive to video streaming that others.”

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