Broadband News

Netflix streaming quality seems to have halved or more

Netflix was reportedly going to lower its streaming quality across Europe by 25%, but it appears that the bit rates being served to customers may have dropped a lot more possibly by more than 50%.

For example at several points during 6 Underground the 4K HDR stream was seen to drop to 720 and 1440 resolutions at times but for the majority of the time it seemed to hold the ideal 2160 resolution but with an low bit rate of 7.62 Mbps. Usually we would expect a bit rate of 15 Mbps or more for 4K HDR content.

For HD content the drop is from around the normal 4 to 5 Mbps to 1.79 Mbps and in some scenes this was dropping to below 1 Mbps. At these sort of bit rates you might find SD content on Freeview is of the same or better quality and the HD Freeview channels are very likely to be visibly sharper.

The reason for the original 25% bit rate drop was to protect ISP network loads at peak times but as yet in the UK none of the fixed line providers have reported any problems and we have not seen any evidence of speed problems from speed tests. With streaming half the bitrate this suggests that either Netflix has pressure applied by some ISP in Europe to further drop bit rates and worryingly they've applied this across all their services in Europe or there may be some capacity issues on the CDN clusters that Netflix use.

The video streams are not buffering or showing blocks of pixels, but there is a general loss of sharpness in dynamic scenes. Ensuring that broadband does not break en-masse is worthwhile we would make rather have seen the call for changes in bit rate to be approached on an ISP by ISP rather than across a whole continent. 

Comments

@thinkbroadband Their arrogance towards costumers wanting a refund for not getting what they are paying for (after… https://t.co/NCGFacyQNe

  • @JensFallesen
  • comment via twitter
  • 7 months ago

Why is this even an issue? Why not simply test the speed of the link and dynamically choose one of a large number of possible bit rates ? If an ISP is already seeing congestion then that will affect the link speed test.

  • CecilWard
  • 7 months ago

What really grinds my gears is I was watching Netflix earlier with the content clearly coming from the Netflix cache at my ISP (Zen) but I was constantly getting very visible macro-blocking, like that's being restricted too.

Why would they apply this restriction to ISP caches if said ISP has not complained of capacity issues? I suppose its possible it might not be cached so is just proxying, but it WAS DC Titans so I find it unlikely its not in the cache.

  • alexatkinuk
  • 7 months ago

@thinkbroadband @DisneyPlusUK streaming quality is terrible also

  • @SaltireNetwork
  • comment via twitter
  • 7 months ago

For me it seems to be content dependent, the big shows Netflix are pushing seem to look fine (even if they have dropped the bitrate) but other shows, Van Helsing for example is HORRIBLY pixelated to watch.

  • LudaLuke
  • 7 months ago

Because it saves them millions of pounds in bandwidth bills, that's why they are so happy to jump the second someone even brought up this non existant problem.

Back to watching my shows by other methods then....

  • doowles
  • 7 months ago

This isn’t required in the UK. Netflix have servers in many BT exchanges around the UK and I imagine they might in POPs for other providers too. Maybe this isn’t done in the rest of Europe but we DO NOT need this measure here.

  • _Mike_B_
  • 7 months ago

The below are pure guesses

Could this simply be the cache appliances servicimg more requests than normal combeined with the effect of the bitrate reduction?

While we might not need the reduction in bit rate here it's probably easier for them to manage any UK caches as part of their Eurppe block as opposed to managing them as a separate UK block.

  • techguy
  • 7 months ago

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