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Netflix Lowers Canadian Data Usage 66%

29 Mar, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Netflix said beginning March 29 its Canadian subscribers would use 66% less data when streaming movies and TV shows with minimal effect on video quality.

In a post, Neil Hunt, chief product officer with Netflix, said tweaks to video/audio delivery rates allow Canadian consumers to select desired picture quality with accompanying data usage.

Streaming an hour of content per day during a month typically consumed as much as 70 gigabytes in high definition, or 30 GB in standard definition. Cable subs in Canada typically are limited to about 20 GB monthly without surcharges. Similar data caps are being considered by cable operators and Telcos in the United States.

“Now Canadians can watch 30 hours of streaming from Netflix in a month that will consume only 9 GB of data, well below most data caps,” Hunt wrote. “While there is some lessening of picture quality with these new settings, the experience continues to be great.”

The issue of data usage has become acute after Canada’s top cable and telecommunications operators began incorporating caps on the amount of data subscribers could download from broadband connections without paying a premium.

While consumer advocates and some politicians cried foul, timing of the caps conspicuously coincided with Netflix’s launch of a streaming-only service last summer. The platform many believe threatened Canadian cable and Telco’s own transactional video-on-demand services and pay-TV channels.

Specifically, Netflix adjusted data rates to deliver so-called “good” video quality at 0.3G B per hour, “better” video quality at 0.7 GB per hour and “best” video quality at 1 GB per hour in standard definition, and 2.3 GB per hour in HD.

An hour per day per month streaming “better” video quality would use 20 GB, while 67 GB would be used when streaming “best” video quality, which includes 1080p resolution and 5.1 audio.

Hunt said only a limited number of streaming files are available in HD, which means that the effective video/audio upper limit data use during a month amounts to about 31 GB.

“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,” Hunt wrote.

Canadian subs can adjust the settings by visiting the Manage Video Quality page, found under the Your Account section.

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