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Summary:

Netflix has started to serve higher bitrate HD streams to all of its subscribers, but issues around peering and local content caching are far from resolved.

super hd

Prepare for your Netflix streams to look better: Netflix is making its Super HD video quality available to all of its members. All members will also have access to 3D titles on Netflix. Both 3D and Super HD were previously only available to members whose ISPs peered with Netflix or placed the company’s Open Connect caching hardware within their networks.

Super HD streams are essentially 1080p HD streams with less compression, which should make for a better picture quality. Netflix recommends that members have at least 7 Mbps of bandwidth available for best results, but the company also serves a less-demanding Super HD version that only requires around 5 Mbps of bandwidth. 3D streams can require up to 12 Mbps of bandwidth, according to Netflix.

Netflix’s 3D catalog is thought to be small, but the company has been looking to offer higher-quality HD streams for a substantial number of the movies and TV shows it has been adding to its catalog, and obviously Netflix-exclusive content like House of Cards is available in Super HD as well.

Netflix first launched these higher-bitrate HD streams in January, and at the time only made it available to customers whose ISPs were using Open Connect. Customers without access to Super HD and 3D streaming were encouraged to contact their ISP and ask for it.

This kind of public petitioning didn’t go over well with everyone, and Time Warner Cable even alleged that Netflix was violating net neutrality principles — a somewhat ironic charge in light of various efforts by ISPs to get content providers to pay for the videos their customers are consuming.

By making Super HD and 3D available to everyone, Netflix has arguably one less carrot in its arsenal to convince ISPs to adapt Open Connect — but the company hasn’t given up completely on the idea to make this more of a public issue. Netflix is continuing to expand its monthly ISP ratings, which highlight the average speed its customers see on various ISP networks.

Netflix is also looking to add 4K streams to its service in the future. CEO Reed Hastings said during a recent public appearance that Ultra HD streams could come to Netflix as early as next year, and that these may require up to 15 Mbps of bandwidth.

Updated at 2:22pm to clarify which members previously were able to get Super HD.

  1. At 12Mbps 1 hour costs ~ 5.4GB or 60 hours of streaming per month until one reaches ISP cap.

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    1. That’s assuming that you only have a 325GB cap. Even still, you could watch a 2hr SUPER HD 3D movie every single night of the month. You’ll run out of 3D content in a hurry that way.
      My ISP (XMission) has a soft cap at 1TB which gives me 185 hours a month. They do the Open Connect thing, so they might not care due to it all being “local” traffic.

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  2. No problems if 3D catalog is small, anyway 2D is good enough for most content except action movies.

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  3. So it sounds like this will just happen automatically, no setting changes needed for the customer… I wonder what percentage of their titles are actually in Super HD?

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    1. Netflix won’t give out exact numbers, but my sense is that it’s a substantial part of their catalog.

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  4. When is the change happening?

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  5. Janko, not sure I understand or agree with “Netflix has arguably one less carrot in its arsenal to convince ISPs to adapt Open Connect”. If anything, with this move they’ve put it out into the court of public opinion and we’ll see just how quickly uptake occurs and what people’s bandwidth usage and experience looks like. In some ways Netflix was playing nice. This issue by the way goes back to the Kingsbury Commitment of 1913 (50 mile interconnect exclusion zone for termination) and expanded LATAs (calling areas) by the Baby Bells to withstand the competitive long-distance threat. Ironically the latter scaled the commercial foundations for the internet and was a big reason the US dominated the internet over the past 2 decades. In the long-run the attempted blockage never works. It will certainly be interesting to see how the usage numbers change month to month and how quickly ISPs implement Open Connect. On the other hand they may try to degrade service in one fashion or another.

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  6. Good thing I have 50mb fios!

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  7. Netflix 3D isn’t available to everyone yet, we still can’t get it in the UK

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