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How Netflix Eats the Internet 303

Posted by timothy
from the my-what-big-eyes-you-have dept.
pacopico writes "Every night, Netflix accounts for about one-third of the downstream Internet traffic in North America, dwarfing all of its major rivals combined. Bloomberg Businessweek has a story detailing the computer science behind the streaming site. It digs into Netflix's heavy use of AWS and its open-source tools like Chaos Kong and Asgard, which the Obama administration apparently used during the campaign. Story seems to suggest that the TV networks will have an awful time mimicking what Netflix has done."
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How Netflix Eats the Internet

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  • by Joehonkie (665142) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:30PM (#43677713) Homepage
    One byte at a time?
  • by MitchDev (2526834) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:35PM (#43677761)

    They'll use their bought and paid for congress critters to get Netflix legislated to death and use their industry connections to get even more content taken away from Netflix to keep them under control...

    • by SilentStaid (1474575) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:58PM (#43678051)
      You underestimate the power of Netflix and the demand that customers have for it. Networks will adapt, or die. Sure, they might adapt in a way we don't like (I.E. putting out their own slightly worse version where they can still sell advert space like Hulu) but video streaming, on demand, is here to stay.

      "You can't stop the signal." ~ Mr. Universe.
      • by mu51c10rd (187182) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @03:22PM (#43678299)

        You underestimate the power of Netflix and the demand that customers have for it.

        Many do...it was a wakeup call for the cable/satellite operators when Disney signed with them. Disney is one of the kings of content...and they see something more valuable in Netflix than their current (soon to be previous) contract with the Starz cable channel. Netflix charges 8 dollars a month for offering more content than many people who pay 100 dollars a month get from their cable subscription.

    • and use their industry connections to get even more content taken away from Netflix to keep them under control

      "Industry connections" aren't stupid - if Netflix offers a better deal, they're going with Netflix. If those "connections" do decide to be stupid, they do so knowing full well there's raftloads of independents snapping at their heels.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:35PM (#43677765)

    Comparing TV networks to Netflix is like comparing an ancient Spartan soldier to a modern, fully armed, US Marine.

  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:36PM (#43677777)
    I just heard another news story that said it's 3% of all internet traffic in the US at night. That's a pretty big discrepancy. Given all other services like youtube and Hulu and all peer to peer, I seriously doubt it's 1/3. It probably is 3%.
    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:52PM (#43677967)

      YouTube - You watch a short, low quality video, then spend a little time browsing for another video.
      Netflix - You are continuously streaming high quality video for anywhere from 20 minutes (30 min TV show) to 2+ hours (movies).

      YouTube might have more users at any given time, but it's completely plausible that Netflix utterly crushes it in terms of how much bandwidth is used. Given that Hulu, which is probably Netflix's single largest competitor, posted around 1/5 the revenues for 2012, it's a drop in the bucket compared to Netflix... and Netflix is more friendly to people that want to continuously watch episodes/movies due to a lack of commercial breaks.

    • It's possible that that figure was only on Internet2, which has mostly academic users. Or is Netflix using BitTorrent for their downloads?

  • You know... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:42PM (#43677849)

    I would be more than happy to be able to actually download movies from Netflix during non peak times to watch at some other time. This would allow spreading out the bandwidth over the course of a day instead of everyone streaming at peak times such as 7PM EST,CST,PST

    Streaming services will continue to degrade our bandwidth unless we are given the ability to download movies\shows during off hours to watch later.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Better idea just upgrade the internet connections.

      I don't want to decide what I am going to watch hours in advance. I have no interest in leaving some machine on burning power to record a show for later.

      • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Thursday May 09, 2013 @03:39PM (#43678473) Homepage Journal

        Better idea just upgrade the internet connections.

        Say you want to watch 24-minute episodes of a TV series on your 30-minute-each-way bus commute to and from work. To stream on the bus, you'd need an expensive cellular data plan. And it's expensive because there's a limit to how many cellular subscribers can be served at once.

        I don't want to decide what I am going to watch hours in advance.

        You do if you're watching a whole season of a TV series in order.

        I have no interest in leaving some machine on burning power to record a show for later.

        Even if you have no such interest, millions of pirates using BitTorrent have such interest.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          I already have such a plan. I can also rip DVDs.
          More cellular subscribers can be served by making cells smaller. I am driving that sort of change with my usage.

          Millions of pirates using BitTorrent can download their files right before they watch them with modern internet connections.

    • Re:You know... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:50PM (#43677951) Journal

      I would be more than happy to be able to actually download movies from Netflix during non peak times to watch at some other time. This would allow spreading out the bandwidth over the course of a day instead of everyone streaming at peak times such as 7PM EST,CST,PST

      Streaming services will continue to degrade our bandwidth unless we are given the ability to download movies\shows during off hours to watch later.

      But that would disrupt the hilarious consensual hallucination among the 'content' people that 'streaming' isn't actually just a form of 'downloading' where you don't bother to write things to the disk! We can't have that!

      It is absolutely necessary that 'streaming' and 'downloading' be fundamentally different, because, um, 'broadcasting' and 'selling VHS tapes' were fundamentally different! That's why! Also, if your video decoder was sold as a 'computer' and connects to an LCD panel that the salesman called a 'monitor', that's entirely different than if your video decoder is called a 'set top box' and is connected to an LCD panel called a 'TV'. Because, because, something.

      • My AppleTV is connected to a computer-only LCD panel (it only has VGA, DVI and HDMI inputs, no built-in tuner).

        I wonder what kind of comments I'd get about my setup from those "content people".

        • You... can't... don't... should... not... be.

        • My AppleTV is connected to a computer-only LCD panel (it only has VGA, DVI and HDMI inputs, no built-in tuner).

          I thought computer-only LCD panels tended to lack audio output. Did you have Apple TV in mind before you bought your computer-only LCD panel to make sure it had an audio output?

          • Some computer-only LCD panels do have audio support from the HDMI input port, but mine doesn't. Besides, my LCD was a gift and anyway I route the optical audio output to a line-level converter from monoprice and then to small powered speakers, into which I connect my headphones.

  • It eats the Internet too, eh?

  • Bad codecs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jensend (71114) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @03:18PM (#43678253)

    If they used modern H.264 and AAC encoders rather than whatever outdated VC.1 and WMA encoders they're using, they could cut that bandwidth use by a third, reducing their costs and improving the customer experience tremendously. Does anybody know why they haven't already done this?

    • by jensend (71114)

      BTW I believe their streams for iOS, PS3, etc are h.264 these days, but their desktop Silverlight player still uses VC-1 last I heard.

    • I don't think they're sending VC.1 or WMA to all the iOS devices, the PS3, the Wii, etc.

    • Probably because they're limited by the vast array of third party devices their streams must play on. Adding different codecs to the mix would increase their operational costs and complexity even as it reduced their bandwidth costs... so it's not clear a priori that such a switch is beneficial overall.

      To know that for certain, we'd need their internal numbers - and they aren't giving those - up.

  • If any sports franchise (major league, NCAA, etc.) were to get a streaming contract that doesn't require a cable/satellite subscription, it would be the beginning of the end. I think they realize that, and is why they lock down things like ESPN3 or NFL Gametime, etc. Sports is where the revenue is for the operators...not channels like Syfy.

    • by fermion (181285)
      They tried to do some NCAAstreaming stuff locally. It failed. Broadcast and cable TV is too much of a profit center for sports. Doing anything to jeopardize that relationship would be death for the sports. Right now, sports is the only thing that keeps men watching TV in real time, so TV needs sports, and TV would be very unhappy if there were other ways to consume sports inexpensively.
  • by evilviper (135110) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @04:17PM (#43678881) Journal

    From TFA:

    One of Netflixâ(TM)s mathematicians is known as 10-Foot User Interface Guy because the average person watching the service via TV sits 10 feet away. His job is to arrange the box art of videos in the most appealing way on a big screen. Thereâ(TM)s also Two-Foot Guy, who deals with laptops, and 18-Inch Guy for tablets.

    They call me "18-Inch Guy", too... Probably for different reasons.

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