The digital landscape is changing as content everywhere becomes the new norm. One of the biggest factors driving this change is the explosion of mobile video consumption. With video no longer the domain of large-screen TVs, viewers today want to watch content anywhere, anytime and on every device. Computers, tablets, and smartphones are becoming the device of choice for an increasing number of viewer’s, after all, it’s pretty neat to watch your favorite movie, TV show, or sports team wherever you are, even if that’s outside your home. But consumers expecting to have this content everywhere are quickly seeing the side effects … in their wallets.

Data is expensive

According to a survey by Cowen & Co., nearly one in five cell phone customers reported paying overages during the past six months, and the cause is users streaming bandwidth intensive video and music. To put this into perspective, typically when watching movies or TV shows on Netflix the average session will consume about 1GB of data per hour for each stream of standard definition video, and up to 3GB per hour for each stream of HD video. Couple this with the typical mobile carrier overage fee of $10 to $15 per 1GB, and you can see why this is an ultra wet blanket for a growing number of users. It is also common for consumers to be on a shared planned, which as you can imagine, brings even more headaches. Personally, I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone over my data plan streaming Netflix, music and YouTube videos … until now.  

Netflix to the rescue

It seems the largest streaming service in the world (Netflix), always eager to please its users, is ready to help us out so they can consume more content without incurring the added cost.  Last week Netflix announced the introduction of new cellular data controls globally.

These settings were created to offer consumers a better way to control their data consumption and give them a new level of flexibility, while streaming over cellular networks. Using the default setting, consumers will be able to stream about 3 hours of TV shows and movies per 1GB, which is a significant upgrade to the 1GB per hour statistic mentioned above.

What about quality?

Netflix assures its subscribers that this default setting finds the optimal balance between good video quality and lower data usage, offering users who are concerned about bandwidth caps and overcharges peace of mind while streaming. Netflix also introduced other options for managing data consumption for those who are more concerned with quality and less with data consumption, catering to even those with unlimited data plans, or perhaps unlimited budgets. 

In the end, Netflix is responding to market requirements, shaped by the explosion of mobile video consumption. By creating data-saving controls to address the issue of bandwidth caps and data overages it reinforces the need by the industry to reduce bitrates across the board.  Yet how to do this without degrading the quality of video, is the question, and one we have discussed before and will cover in greater detail over the next few months.

Addressing this challenge was exactly the subject of a Streaming Media conference panel that Beamr’s Vice President of Marketing Mark Donnigan led on May 10, 2016. To provide the industry with a good perspective on how to move beyond fixed bitrates to content adaptive (aware) strategies, Mark spoke with Yahoo!, Brightcove, Verizon Digital Media Services and Jan Ozer. The video for this panel will be posted in the next 2 to 3 weeks and made available on the Streaming Media website.

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