Netflix streaming in Canada


in Canada, Economics, Films and movies, Geek stuff, Internet matters

I used to be a subscriber to, a DVD by mail service. I decided to give it up for a trio of reasons:

  • Since I couldn’t really choose the order in which I received films, I often got ones I wasn’t in the mood to see
  • The service was fairly expensive
  • I received a number of scratched and unplayable discs

Now, I am trying the new video streaming service offered in Canada by Netflix.

By far the biggest problem is selection. There are some fairly obscure television shows like Blackadder and League of Gentlemen, but no Simpsons, Seinfeld, Arrested Development, Sopranos, 24, Mythbusters, etc. The same goes for movies. I start searching for high quality films I have been meaning to see, and rarely find what I am looking for. With the Netflix streaming service, you watch what is available rather than what you want. Some of what is available is certainly decent – such as the first three seasons of Mad Men – but it definitely doesn’t have the same scope of options as the iTunes store or

That said, Netflix streaming is quite cheap. It only costs $8 a month, which probably explains how popular it has become:

According to Sandvine, a network management company that studies Internet traffic patterns, 10 percent of Canadian Internet users visited in the week after the service launched. And they weren’t just visiting—they were signing up and watching a lot of movies. Netflix videos quickly came to dominate broadband lines across Canada, with Netflix subscribers’ bandwidth usage doubling that of YouTube users. At peak hours (around 9 p.m.) the service accounted for more than 90 percent of the traffic on one Canadian broadband network.

My sense is that Netflix streaming is really competing with free streaming sites. Against them, it has a number of advantages. The interface is fairly good, and it is unlikely to be laden with malware. There aren’t heaps of broken links to be dealt with. Also, there are no daily time limits for use.

Given how much bandwidth Netflix is eating up, it seems likely that there will be an outcry from internet service providers (including those rendered more powerful by a recent CRTC decision). Netflix itself will likely face pressure to pay ISPs, while users are likely to find themselves hit with extra charges for bandwidth usage.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Anon November 4, 2010 at 12:18 pm

“At peak hours (around 9 p.m.) the service accounted for more than 90 percent of the traffic on one Canadian broadband network.”

Somehow, I knew people wanting to stare at Christina Hendricks would somehow destroy the internet.

Anon November 4, 2010 at 12:20 pm
Matt November 4, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Of course, there’s the less than legal method of ye olde bittorrent, which usually has the advantage of all the content you could possibly want.

Milan November 4, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Legalities aside, BitTorrent is also a download-first-watch-later option, which is inferior to the streaming model, all else being equal.

There also seems to be a greater risk of malware associated with BitTorrent sites than with the NetFlix site.

Antonia November 5, 2010 at 6:27 am

Obscure? Blackadder? Not for anyone from the UK

Byron Smith November 5, 2010 at 9:18 pm

I second Antonia’s comment for anyone from Australia too.

On a different note, have you looked into the carbon footprint of a broadband culture? I haven’t done so myself, but had a commenter a while back who was insisting that it is quite significant and that data-heavy internet use (of which streaming video would have to be king) puts out some serious CO2 tonnes.

Milan November 8, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Assessing the climate impact of the internet is tricky, given that it is probably fairest to compare using the internet with the most plausible non-internet options. Server farms and communication lines certainly use energy, but so does relying on DVD-by-mail services, video rental shops, or movie theatres.

When it comes to activities that are powered electrically, I think the most sensible way to focus our attention is on improving efficiency and on increasing the share of electricity produced from zero-carbon sources.

Matt November 11, 2010 at 2:35 am

This is along the same lines as my “what about torrents?” post, but I’m quite a fan of downloading via newsgroups. Again, this is less than legal and not streaming, but it’s significantly more secure than torrents. As well, because you can use all the available bandwidth of your internet connection, although movies don’t stream, they only take ~20mins to download for non HD formats.

If you aren’t familiar with newsgroups, here’s the rundown: Usenet newsgroups are a very old internet service originally designed as message boards. People concerned with climate change would “subscribe” to alt.discussion.climate-change, for example, and much like modern www forums, they could follow a threaded discussion. Each message was limited in size (I’m not sure of the exact size but ~750KB), and no facility to transfer attachements existed. In a way, newsgroups were sort of like threaded emails that anyone could access.

Because there was no way to transfer attachments (hereafter refered to binaries), people started sending ascii data in the text of their messages that could be turned into a useable file. Because each message was limited in size, it very quickly came about that people would send multiple small messages (of around 750KB) that could then be stitched into a much larger file. To know what messages were needed to make the file, the subject lines of each file would look something like “file_A_part1” and “file_A_part2” etc. The process of stitching files together became automated, and suddenly there existed a way to send very large files through a service that was never designed to do so.

Originally, most internet providers hosted news servers. If I posted a message to my local ISP’s (telus’) message board, it would be stored there, and through the magic of computing soon propogate to other news servers around the world where it could be downloaded by other users. When the service began to be heavily exploited for data desemination, the traffic became large and storing the messages becam burdensome for the ISPs. Because the traffic became so large, the servers could only hold data for a fixed period of time. For instance, if the ISP had a 1 terabyte server, the messages would only last as long as it would take for 1 terabyte of data to be posted. This usually meant that ISPs only had 1 or 2 days retention of messages. For this reason and bandwidth concerns, most ISPs do not host news servers anymore.

Enter the pay news sever: Companies exist that allow you to access their servers for monthly or pay per use fees. Their retention, rather than one or two days, is hundreds (the one I’m using now boasts 800 days of retention). As well, because the service isn’t per-to-peer (you’re not sharing), it’s not easy to be busted for piracy and as well the transfer rates will max out your connection.

To access newsservers, you need software. I highly recommend grabit. It’s free, too. As for which news server to subscribe to, I’ve used astraweb and ngroups and I’ve been happy with both. Finally, you need someway of finding the content you’re looking to download. I’ve been using the free newzleech search engine, which seems to find everything I look for.

Sorry for the long winded post, but I’m always excited to tell people about this often overlooked source of internet data.

. December 19, 2010 at 8:11 pm
. February 22, 2011 at 10:37 pm

Let’s play a little game. One of these things is not like the others: CBC, CTV, Global, Netflix.

If you guessed Netflix, you win. In the eyes of Canada’s telecommunications authority, the CRTC, Netflix, which allows viewers to stream video content via their computers, Blu-ray players or game consoles, isn’t considered a “broadcaster.” But some industry groups think it should be.

Part of being a broadcaster in Canada means that you’re obliged to support Canadian programming. It’s right there in the Canadian Broadcasting Act: “each element of the Canadian broadcasting system shall contribute in an appropriate manner to the creation and presentation of Canadian programming.”

Practically speaking, this means that Canadian broadcasters are required to give a percentage of their annual revenues to organizations like the Canadian Media Fund, which helps pay for new Canadian content. Basically, if you want to run a TV station, you need to help pay for Canadian TV programming. Broadcasters have to do this.

But here’s the thing: the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission doesn’t consider online video streaming services like Netflix to be broadcasters, so they can distribute movies and TV shows without the same requirement to help fund new Canadian productions.

. May 14, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Sony’s outage also interrupted third-party services delivered over its network, such as some of Netflix’s online film rentals. Netflix also uses the Amazon data centre that went on the blink, but avoided any problems as a result of this. The secret of its relative resilience is what the company calls its “Rambo Architecture”. Among other things, this means designing different parts of its system—say, the bit that recommends videos and the bit that lets users search for them—so they function independently of each other, making it less likely all will keel over at once. The firm also uses software it designed itself called “Chaos Monkey”, which randomly simulates failures in its cloud-based systems to see how robust they are.

Some firms bring in specialist advisers to plan, test and manage their technology set-ups in the cloud. Michael Kirven, the boss of Bluewolf, one such advisory firm, says that because Amazon and other providers have made it so easy for companies to shift their services to the cloud, some customers have been lulled into thinking they don’t need the same amount of backup protection as they would elsewhere. But as this week’s events amply demonstrate, although the benefits of doing things online still greatly outweigh the risks, it often pays to be paranoid.

. May 17, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Netflix streaming overtakes surfing as biggest driver of Web traffic
Peter Svensson
NEW YORK— The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, May. 17, 2011 8:10AM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, May. 17, 2011 8:33AM EDT

Move over, Web surfing. Netflix (NFLX-Q237.09—-%) movies now take up more of the Internet pipes going into North American homes.

A study published Tuesday by Sandvine Inc. shows that Netflix movies and TV shows account for nearly 30 per cent of traffic into homes during peak evening hours, compared with less than 17 per cent for Web browsing.

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