Demand for 4K UHD video and rising adoption are driving the growth of streaming on the web

by on December 8, 2015

Stephan Jukic – December 8, 2015

The addiction to online streaming media services seems to know no limits to its growth, at least according to quarterly research findings from web traffic monitoring company Sandvine.

According to their quarterly data, a whopping 70% of internet traffic in North America consists entirely of streaming video and audio content from sources like Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, iTunes, Pandora and many other sources. This is the highest percentage ever recorded by the company since they began tracking these stats some five years ago, when total audio and video steaming traffic sources accounted for just 35% of all web traffic in North America.

In fact, while the streaming sources are many in total, Netflix alone is truly a giant, accounting for more web traffic with its streaming services today than all the video and audio traffic flow on the internet combined, from all sources, in 2010.

According to Sandvine CEO Dave Caputo in a statement which accompanied the company’s research figures, “It further underscores both the growing role these streaming services play in the lives of subscribers and the need for service providers to have solutions to help deliver a quality experience when using them.”

Moving back to Netflix: while many sources of online traffic have a responsibility in the growth of audio/video streaming, none take more of the cake than Netflix. The streaming video giant is overwhelmingly popular thanks to its hosting of hit shows like “Breaking Bad”, “Marco Polo” and “House of Cards” among others. Today, even in the growing competitive environment, Netflix alone takes up a whopping 37% of all that 70% of all web video traffic that is coming from streaming media. Even YouTube doesn’t quite beat Netflix, despite its also enormous size and popularity as one of the most visited websites in the world.

Two key factors are responsible for the rapid adoption of the popularity of Netflix and of streaming in general, according to Sandvine’s findings.

Netflix is the single biggest source of streaming video and streaming 4K UHD video on the web today

Netflix is the single biggest source of streaming video and streaming 4K UHD video on the web today

First of all, streaming video itself is the real growth driver, with more than half of surveyed Americans claiming they stream video of some kind and 75% of all young people in the U.S claiming to stream video to their phones. In fact, Netflix alone has some 42 million subscribers in the U.S market, subscribers who not only want streaming video but also streamed video of a very high quality like that provided consistently by Netflix (and not so consistently by sites like Vimeo or YouTube).

And this insistence on high quality video streaming is the second driver of the popularity that Netflix in particular has: viewers have a massive appetite for top-notch resolution in their video content and Netflix provides this. At first this was delivered via a small but growing number of Full HD titles, which soon grew to the point where Netflix delivered half its entire library in HD by 2013.

Now, that same demand for the best possible resolution revolves around 4K ultra HD video, as the popularity of 4K UHD TVs and 4K cameras of all types grows almost exponentially as well. And again, Netflix is offering numerous movies and shows in this latest caliber of resolution. For now they represent a small fraction of its total content, but like HD titles in 2011, these 4K titles are growing in scope and variety to eventually reach the same place HD has reached on Netflix today.

Other streaming providers are reading the writing on the wall and taking the exact same path as Netflix, first by offering as large a percentage of their content in Full HD and now by also offering more of that content, along with all newly created content in 4K ultra HD. Netflix, Amazon, Vimeo, Hulu and any others worth their competitive salt have all embraces the best and the best for now is still 4K ultra HD, even with the challenges it offers due to its much larger bandwidth requirements.

These companies want their best possible resolutions to be fully ready for the near future point where consumers stream nearly a million minutes per second of video content, as is being predicted by Cisco for as early as 2018.

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  • Ike
    December 15, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Game of Thrones is not hosted on Netflix. You can only stream it via HBOGo and HBO Now.


    • Stephen
      December 15, 2015 at 7:49 pm

      You are correct Ike, There is speculation about the possibility but it looks to be very unlikely. Our news source was mistaken in this particular case. This has been corrected.


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