Light Reading

TW Cable Slams Netflix's 'Super HD' Policy

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Netflix Inc.'s decision to offer access to a new library of "Super HD" content only to ISPs that hook into its private content delivery network is rapidly evolving into a scrum over network neutrality and peering relationships.

As reported by Multichannel News, Time Warner Cable Inc. is in talks to join Netflix's "Open Connect" initiative, but the operator at the same time complained that the Netflix policy is a ploy to gain special treatment from ISPs.

Here's TW Cable's full statement, also provided to Light Reading Cable:

"Time Warner Cable is currently in discussions with Netflix regarding acceptable commercial terms for its delivery network. While they call it 'Open Connect,' Netflix is actually closing off access to some of its content while seeking unprecedented preferential treatment from ISPs. We believe it is wrong for Netflix to withhold any content formats from our subscribers and the subscribers of many other ISPs. Time Warner Cable's network is more than capable of delivering this content to Netflix subscribers today."

Netflix has not yet responded to TW Cable's claims.

Netflix has already claimed that any ISP that wants to deliver its new Super HD format "can do so easily and for free."

Netflix's Super HD slate, encoded in 1080p, also includes titles offered in 3-D format. According to Netflix data, Super HD requires downstream speeds of at least 5 Mbit/s, and 7 Mbit/s "for our highest available video quality." Netflix currently offers Super HD to the following devices: the Sony Corp. PlayStation 3; Apple TV with 1080p; Roku Inc. boxes with 1080p; the Nintendo Wii U; PCs running Windows 8; and Blu-ray players and smart TVs with Netflix 1080p support.

Several ISPs, including Cablevision Systems Corp., Virgin Media Inc., BT Group plc and Telus Corp., have joined Netflix Open Connect.

Cablevision announced its membership during this month's Consumer Electronics Show, stating that it gives the MSO a competitive edge against Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc., which do not yet have a direct local connection with Netflix or access to the Super HD library. (See Netflix Connects With Cablevision.)

Netflix, meanwhile, has been publishing a monthly ranking of major U.S. ISPs based on their streaming quality. In Netflix's December 2012 post, TW Cable ranked seventh, with an average speed of 2.05 Mbit/s for Netflix streams. Google Fiber, at 2.57 Mbit/s, was tops.

This isn't the first time Netflix and the cable industry have sparred over network neutrality concerns. Netflix earlier complained that Comcast gives special treatment to video streams that are delivered to the Xbox 360 via the MSO's own Xfinity TV app. (See Comcast Denies It's Prioritizing Xbox Video and Netflix CEO Keeps Whining About Comcast.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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User Rank: Light Sabre
1/18/2013 | 12:26:23 AM
re: TW Cable Slams Netflix's 'Super HD' Policy
ISPs have to get the Netflix content from somewhere. ISPs making content providers pay for access to their users hasn't really worked, and I think it will continue to not work. Netflix has a large enough vocal user base they can't really demand payment from Netflix which is what they want,. Netflix obviously doesn't want to pay their existing CDNs storage and bandwidth costs especially for the superhd content so they built their own network, nothing wrong with that. Netflix wants settlement free peering, TW wants them to pay, not going to happen. There are ISPs that haven't really popularized the fact they are connected to OpenConnect, my Charter connection at home is enabled for SuperHD, I didn't see any Charter press release...
User Rank: Light Beer
1/17/2013 | 6:05:01 PM
re: TW Cable Slams Netflix's 'Super HD' Policy
When Cablevision and Netflix announced the deal last week I suspected Netflix saw it as a bargaining chip for its peering disputes.

JEFF- you raise a good question about who Netflix subscribers should blame if they can't get the premium offering - I could argue it either way
Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/17/2013 | 2:31:49 PM
re: TW Cable Slams Netflix's 'Super HD' Policy
This also isn't the first time Netflix has found itself in the middle of a peering-related issue.-á Back in 2010, Comcast and Level 3 were at odds after Level 3 claimed the MSO was demanding a stipend for Web video traffic after Level 3 struck a CDN deal with Netflix.-á

Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/17/2013 | 12:41:50 PM
re: TW Cable Slams Netflix's 'Super HD' Policy
I'll have a bit more to say about this in a blog post...but both sides have good reasons for what they're doing here... Netflix obviously wants to save on CDN costs for higher-bit rate streams, while TW Cable thinks its customers are being discriminated against if it doesn't join Open Connect. But what about Netflix subscribers?-á Who should they be mad at?-áNetflix for a policy that shuts them out from some content that other customers are getting or their ISP, if the ISP isn't part of the Netflix CDN club? JB
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