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Summary:

I love Netflix streaming and have never had an issue with it. Other people, however, are not so happy with the quality of the streaming service, and have become quite vocal about it in the blogs and forums, aiming their ire at Microsoft’s Silverlight player in […]

I love Netflix streaming and have never had an issue with it. Other people, however, are not so happy with the quality of the streaming service, and have become quite vocal about it in the blogs and forums, aiming their ire at Microsoft’s Silverlight player in particular. Netflix issued a response and over the weekend in a corporate blog post to explain why some subscribers may experience some sucky streaming.

In a nutshell, Netflix identified three pain points in the streaming system that could affect a user’s experience: CDNs, the variety of content and devices, and in-home congestion.

Netflix points out that its content is scattered across different CDN servers throughout the U.S. Heavy congestion in different regions, or the ways in which the traffic is routed to ISPs, could adversely affect streaming quality for some, while not impacting others.

There are there are also differences in the way content is served and played back. The Netflix blog does a nice job of summing it up:

“[D]ifferent titles, and different encodes for different playback device types, may come from different CDNs or different servers at a particular CDN, so may have different paths and different bottlenecks. Accordingly, customers may see better performance on Xbox than their PC, or vice-versa.”

Finally, Netflix says, in effect, “physician, heal thyself” to subscribers, and reminds people that between downloading large files, or even using Skype video call while streaming, are potential bottlenecks within the home.

The blog post, however, barely touches on Silverlight, which seems to be the biggest issue for people, other than to say it is working on a new version of the player that incorporates multi-sourcing to alleviate regional hiccups. Earlier this month, Netflix stood behind Silverlight, saying that most reaction has been positive. Netflix was so high on Microsoft’s video player that it laid off 50 people in December because it said it anticipated fewer problems with the technology. Perhaps the company should have kept a few more of them on the payroll.

Microsoft unveiled Silverlight 3 at its MIX 09 conference last week and said the new player should perform better for Netflix subscribers. Too bad the final version of Silverlight 3 won’t be shipped until the end of the this year, and an improved Netflix player will come after that.

Are you experiencing static with your Netflix streaming? Tell us which device you’re using and what the problems are in the comments!

  1. Does apple have any of these problems? because appletv works fantastically well.

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  2. They are standing behind Silverlight because I am sure that much like the Olympics, MSFT pays for a lot of the product (and let’s be honest, for NFLX streaming is still an experiment).

    There are a lot of companies out there that solve this problem external of Adobe/Msft (Move Networks tops the list in terms of quality).

    sigh

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  3. I’ve watched quite a bit of Netflix on my work computer (I know, horrible but advertising was way low at the time and they’ve sense re-arranged so we have more work) and it was wonderful. Sometimes it would slow down, but overall the experience was great.

    However, I haven’t even tried it on my home laptop because its quite slow. Sometimes the computer is to blame more than the service.

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  4. I have 4 sources of Netflix streaming. Ruku, XBox, Vista SP1 w/silverlight and Tivo. My ISP is Verizon w/ 20/20. I am using a wired lan with a dlink dir-655 and a dlink dgs 2205 switch. Router QOS is disabled. I live 25 miles from Times Square. I have not yet had one instance of, as you say, sucky streaming. As a matter of fact, I have actually streamed the 3 devices at the same time to the same TV and had no problems whatsoever (as a test to find the best device to use daily).
    Next door, my neighbor has Cablevision. It is rare for him to be able to watch an entire Netflix movie without at least 1 instance of buffering and many times up to 4 or 5 times every hour. Needless to say, I find it hard to look past the ISP’s in the case of sucky streaming. If I was a betting man, I’d bet the the cable companies are somehow interrupting the data, or the users routers are in need of an upgrade.

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  5. Keep in mind that Reed Hastings sits on Microsoft’s Board of Directors. Netflix will likely remain supportive of Silverlight.

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    1. Good point.

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  6. I access Netflix on my Samsung 50 inch Plasma set through my xBox360 which is connected to my home network via an inexpensive Linksys game port. My ISP is Cablevision. My experience to date with this arrangement is spectacular. I have never experienced a single drop out or buffering of any kind. I’ve demonstrated this to friends and family multiple times and no one can believe it’s streaming video.

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  7. I just installed Silverlight for Netflix last night, not thinking it could do any harm, because I was already very happy with the streaming quality of the old player. I WAS WRONG! ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE! Choppy video, sound not synched, grainy and pixelated video. I immediately called customer support and the person verified that my system and my download speed far exceeded the requirements – which was already clear to me because I’m using a 3-month old Toshiba Satellite with Turion dual-core processor and 4GB ram (VISTA 64).

    On the old player I was so impressed with the quality – it was DVD quality most of the time – now I CAN’T GET IT BACK! I WANT IT BACK! What really is irking me right now is the fact that customer support acted like it was a mystery! This was on 03/26/2009. After she couldn’t help me, I got off the phone and started doing some research and found out that MANY people were having the same issue!

    The corporate take on this mentioned in this article WILL NOT PASS with people experiencing this problem for the very clear and simple fact that one night their streaming is working fine, they install Silverlight , and now everything is crap.

    What can we do about this other than cancelling our accounts?

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    1. AGREED. This new play blows large chunks. Literally. GIANT Pixels. I have a 3.3 mbps connection as reported from speakeasy, to the west coast, 4mbps to east and 6 to chicago. Netflix’s old player ROCKED. Fantastic image and sound. Now, it is slightly better than watching flash on low quality. REALLY DISAPPOINTED.

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  8. I use a Mac Mini (1st gen Intel-based) and an iMac (17-inch 1st gen Intel-based). I watch Netflix streams via Firefox 3.08 with Silverlight 2 on both systems. I get stuttering and I have a 10-15 mbps download rate (it varies depending on powerboost). I’ve eliminated my router and still get stuttering. Can I live with the stuttering? Yes. Would I prefer smooth streaming? Of course!!! Something’s not right, and I don’t think it’s on my end.

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  9. I’m using an HTPC (running Windows XP) and Netflix/Silverlight performed well together. Haven’t had a problem with it, so far.

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  10. I run both MCE 2005 and Vista on my HTPC. When using XP, I can watch full screen at 1500 kbps, 29-30 fps only dropping a few frames per second on occasion. When not in full screen mode, the playback is flawless. However, in Vista, the playback is poor in full screen mode, pretty much unwatchable at 1500 kbps mode, dropping regulary 10 -15 frames /second. Performance is better when not in full screen. Processor is P4 with HT at 3.4GHZ
    and 2GB Ram. Performance is poor using both Firefox and IE.

    Anyone try the Beta Silverlight 3.0 and see if there is improvement?

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