Netflix, Others Pushing Bandwidth Consumption Higher

Carl Weinschenk

The explosion of bandwidth use is often looked at as a block-it is growing, it is growing quickly and, by a particular date in the future, it will reach a point that is orders of magnitude greater than it is today.

Not often, however, is there concrete and very specific information on precisely where the growth is coming from. This week The NPD Group released research that made just such an assessment.

The firm says that Netflix downloaded or streamed 61 percent of "digital movie units"-presumably, a fancy way of saying "online movies"-in January and February. That left other players in the dust: Comcast was next at 8 percent and DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and Apple had 4 percent each. Thus, Netflix was responsible for more than three times that of the four companies combined (61 percent versus 20 percent).

This is a highly competitive segment. Indeed, that is what's important from an Internet infrastructure standpoint. Ars Technica, on its report on the NPD findings, stresses that behemoth Amazon also is a player. The bottom line is that there are a good deal of very powerful players, and that is sure to keep pushing bandwidth consumption higher. The final paragraph of the Ars Technica report provides an insight into just how impressive the list of competitors is:

Amazon clearly wants to compete with Netflix, but it will have to step up its game if it wants to chip away at Netflix's dominance in the digital video market. Indeed, Amazon needs to edge past iTunes and the various cable offerings to even show up on the leaderboard, so the team had better get cracking to get more content online and deliver it to more places.

Bottom line: Any category featuring Amazon, Apple, Netflix and cable operators is sure to grow.

In but one sign of how that competition may manifest itself, Engadget is reporting that a prototype of the LG Revolution has been seen that offers Netflix streaming. The system doesn't actually work yet, but the site suggests that it may just be a matter of time before it does.

Another suggestion that the high stakes game is getting hotter can be gleaned by this commentary from Reuters columnist Jeffrey Goldfarb. He suggests that Time Warner could end up responding to the threat of Netflix like all good corporate giants do-by buying it. He also says that Netflix is on the verge of taking a big step in offering its own programming through the acquisition of the series "House of Cards" from actor Kevin Spacey and David Fincher, who directed "The Social Network."

There is a lot of intrigue surrounding Netflix, iTunes, cable operators and other players' strategies on downloading and streaming video. The bottom line, however, is clear: The popularity of streaming and downloading movies and other content over the Internet will continue to drive bandwidth use. This could impact how much bandwidth is available for businesses and, for that reason, should stay on IT planners' radars.

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