Monday, September 30, 2013

Netflix News: Better signals for all, longform viewing up, Problems for CRTC

Netflix has been experimenting with improved streaming signals for a while, making the 3D and "SuperHD" video streams available to subscribers connecting through ISPs using OpenConnect (which promised higher speeds and no data limits).  Highspeed and no-limit connections are important to improved streaming,  Normal HD signals need 2-3 Mbps bandwidth for live streaming, while SuperHD (1080p instead of 1080i, and less compression) needs 5-7 Mbps, and 3D can require up to 12 Mbps bandwidth.

A couple of cable MSOs, who had previously announced that they'd put delays and/or data limits on Netflix programming (while not doing so for affiliated VOD services), claimed that Netflix was violating the principals of network neutrality (which in fact was what they were doing).  Still, the PR for Netflix providing improvements only to some subscribers wasn't good, so they've now announced that the higher quality streaming options will be available to all US subscribers.  They've also hinted at the possibility of adding 4K (Ultra HD) streams when content is available, likely sometime next year.

While not Netflix-specific, the latest Ooyala Global Video Index is showing continued rapid growth in the use of online video.  Some highlights:
  • Mobile and Tablet viewing account for more than 10% of all online video viewing.
  • More than 20% of mobile viewing time was for content more than an hour long (i.e movies, live sports)
  • Tablet audiences spent more than half of their online viewing time watching premium long-form content (i.e. movies)
In the meantime, Netflix is creating issues for Canadian regulators. A new report from Canadian regulators CRTC reported that in 2012, a third of Canadians watched online TV regularly, and 17% of Canadians had Netflix accounts.  A more recent trade report indicated that 25% of English-speaking Canadians were Netflix subscribers, and 84% of them watched at least one TV show or movie a week on Netflix.  The report also indicated that 20% of Canadian streamed audio content, many from non-local sources.  While great news for Netflix, Pandora, and the like, Canadian broadcasters and networks, who are required to meet minimum requirements for Canadian content, fear that they're at a competitive disadvantage.  And they're protesting to the CRTC, hoping to get the local content rules reduced or waived.
  At a speech to a media industry group recently, CRTC vice-chairman Peter Menzies said that the commission could no longer act as a gatekeeper in a digital world that may no longer have gates.
"(We need to find a way to act) as an enabler of Canadian expression, rather than a protector.  We can't tell Canadians what to watch, nor should we."

Sources -  Netflix expands Super HD and 3D streaming to all of its members,  GigaOm
Ooyala Global Video Index: 2Q 2013, research report
One-third of Canadians watch TV Online, CRTC says,  CBC News
Communications Monitoring Report 2013,  CRTC report.

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