Netflix on Why Your Streaming Might Suck

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!

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