Netflix Cuts Video-Stream Quality in Canada--Is US Next?

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Video-streaming fans in Canada, you can blame your Internet service provider for Netflix's decision to stream a less-pretty picture to your TV screens.

Movies and TV shows streaming from Netflix will use two-thirds less data on average, with "minimal impact to video quality," the company says.

"We made these changes because many Canadian Internet service providers unfortunately enforce monthly caps on the total amount of data consumed," wrote Netflix chief product officer Neil Hunt in a Monday blog post.

The changes will slash Netflix's monthly data usage. Before the switch, a subscriber who watched 30 hours of Netflix video in HD would consume as much of 70GB of data, with 30GB being the average amount used, according to Hunt.

"While there is some lessening of picture quality with these new settings, the experience continues to be great," he writes.

Canadian Netflix members who want the best video quality available--and, alas, the higher data usage that accompanies it--can change their account settings on the Manage Video Quality page.

The changes apply to Canadian subscribers only, according to Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey.

After years of unlimited service, data caps for North American home broadband subscribers are rapidly become the norm. Rogers Communications in Canada, for instance, has data caps ranging from 2GB to 175GB, depending on the subscriber's plan:

(image: Rogers.jpg)

Will Netflix' U.S. subscribers soon see a lower-quality picture too? The company isn't saying, but the change seems likely given recent moves by major residential ISPs, including AT&T and Comcast, to implement monthly data caps.

A high-definition Netflix video stream uses about 2GB of data per hour, according to Swasey.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at

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