Blog Post

To stream everywhere, Netflix encodes each movie 120 times

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Xboxes, (s MSFT) iPads, (s AAPL) connected TVs: Netflix (s NFLX) streams to a lot of different devices. More than 900, to be precise. And many of them have different screen sizes, bitrate requirements and codec support. That’s why Netflix is doing a whole lot of encoding: Each and every movie is encoded in 120 different versions, according to a behind-the-scenes video recently published by the company.

[vimeo w=600&h=337]

The video was originally made for a job fair, but Netflix shared it this week as part of a blog post that detailed some of the work the company has been doing to streamline the process of getting content ready for consumption via Netflix.

Digital Supply Chain VP Kevin McEntee wrote that the company built a new team to engage with content partners and help them prepare their movies and TV shows for Netflix. As part of that process, Netflix developed a set of so-called “Netflix Delivery Specifications” — essentially instructions that specify which kind of audio and video file formats Netfix is accepting. The company is now certifying production houses that support these specifications.

Why does this matter? Because for content owners, being able to deliver your goods in the right file format can mean real money. From the blog post:

“Frequently Netflix finds itself looking for opportunities to grow its streaming catalogs quickly with budget dollars that have not yet been allocated. Increasingly the Netflix deal teams are considering the effectiveness of a content owner’s delivery abilities when making those spending decisions. Simply put, content owners who can deliver quickly and without error are getting more licensing revenue from Netflix.”

McEntee also wrote that Netflix is launching a website for content owners in 2013 that will help them to verify that their content was delivered without errors.

22 Responses to “To stream everywhere, Netflix encodes each movie 120 times”

  1. You do not need 120 encodes to support all the devices they are. There are 3 major formats out there – Smooth Streaming, HLS, MPEG-DASH. Each of these can use H.264 video. To cover from 3G low bandwidth support to broadband 1080p, you would need roughly 15-20 streams.

    A system can be optimised to encode those 20 streams using H.264, then take those encodes and package into the 3 different formats.

    The only possibility why Netflix is saying 120 encodes is that they are re-encoding per format, which is extremely inefficient. If they made a slight and simple change (and believe me its quite simple as I have done it), they would cut costs by 2/3’s.

  2. streaming guard

    120 is the number of profiles. say if in adaptive streaming you have 4 profiles for SD and 8 for HD, then you’d have per title 6 profiles, meaning 20 different devices profiles. sound right to me. BBC iplayer has announced 80 profiles.

  3. pete_otaqui

    I really wish the BBC had seriously tackled the web video format when it had the chance. As an organisation it was brilliantly placed with both the brains and requirements for solving so many of the problems. I think it’s too late now though, and the BBC Trust would cite the amount of time and money other companies are putting into web video formats as making it commercially unfair for them to get involved.

  4. For me Netflix it’s an AWESOME service in iOS and Android… I like that way that the video decrease the quality when the signal is poor; but the video is not stopping, In 3G when the signal is lost in the first version the app crash, but after some versions the app is not crashing anymore… The subtitles are very good almost all the times, few cases I found odd things like in Heroes.. when the Japanese actor talk .. there is no subtitles. . that makes me crazy… They have a big catalog, I know that many people talk that just have old titles, but this is a normal process .. fist the movies are in the theatres, after in DVD / Blueray and after this.. they start to publish in different chanels anther difficult thing: When publish the movie in another country you need to full fill the rules of the country .. age content or politics blocks …
    Please NetFlix team .. continue doing a great job some people really appreciate !


    • And under what authority do you make that statement? Do you work for Netflix? Do you work for the encoding arm? Or are you just being a Bork content with your own self-perceived knowledge of everything?

  5. Gabe Gagliano


    Has Netflix confirmed they actually create 120 encodes per title? The video phrases it as “downloadables”. Some of audio assets and captioning data can live in separate files. I wonder if Netflix is including that in the 120 number?