The most recent report from Sandvine, a broadband industry analyst group, has some interesting conclusions. One of these conclusions is perhaps most interesting to our readers: that 70% of all home broadband usage goes to “home entertainment,” that is, streaming video and music.
As the below graph shows, traffic for “fixed access,” industry code for home users, peaks at night and is dedicated largely to streaming media. The report notes:
For this report, unsurprisingly, Real-Time Entertainment maintains its status as the dominant traffic category in the region and the key driver for continued network growth. Real-Time Entertainment (audio and video traffic) is now responsible for more than 70% of downstream bytes during peak period.
Because of the semi-transparent nature of packets, it’s relatively easy for those with the right access levels to verify even where the traffic is coming from, specifically. Cat videos on YouTube are not the leading stream, either, as the report says:
Netflix continues to be the leader in peak period traffic, accounting for 37.1% of downstream traffic during the study period.
37.1% represents only a slight increase over a previous analysis, indicating either relative stagnation in Netflix subscription uptake, more efficient content delivery, increases in other types of streaming media, or all of the above (as well as other factors Hacked didn’t know about.) These figures make it less surprising that Netflix is willing to pay cable companies like Time Warner in order to deliver its content faster.
BitTorrent on the Decline
As many have long suspected, BitTorrent usage continues to decline alongside the rise of affordable streaming providers like Netflix. The continued existence of BitTorrent traffic at all could potentially be attributed to the limited content libraries that services like Netflix are able to offer. Spotify and other music services have long since made it possible for surfers to listen to virtually any music they like for free, with an advertisement every few songs just like radio.
The graph below indicates that BitTorrent accounted for less than 5% traffic during a whole day of the study period, a serious decline from its glory days of 2008, when Sandvine says BitTorrent had numbers closer to what Netflix has today, at 31%.
Netflix had only recently released its streaming service at that time through a partnership with Starz and was still relying mostly on DVD rentals to fund its enterprise. DVDs and Blu-Rays were still at that time the culturally normal way to rent movies, and Blockbuster still managed to thrive in some respects.
Perhaps the takeaway for both the entertainment industry is that users are going to get the content one way or another. If it’s provided in a reliable, quality system like Netflix, which just reached a new height with a valuation of $56 billion, then the data seems to suggest they’ll tend toward that. But if it isn’t, history tells us that there will be protocols and providers who have no issue providing the content for nothing, and people will veer toward it, even if it means losing their Internet access now and then.