Peter Kafka

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Netflix Still Eats a Third of the Web Every Night; Amazon, HBO and Hulu Trail Behind

For the last three years, Netflix has accounted for a third of the Internet traffic zipping into North American homes every night.

But Web video competitors like Amazon, HBO and Hulu all say they’re seeing significant growth. So is anyone cutting into Netflix’s lead?

Not really, said Sandvine, the broadband service company that tracks Internet usage.

A Sandvine report out this morning pegs Netflix’s share of prime-time “downstream” traffic delivered over “fixed networks” — that is, wires and pipes — at 32.3 percent. That’s just a hair down from the 33 percent estimate it provided last November.

Meanwhile, Sandvine said Amazon and HBO have seen their share of traffic hold steady, as well. Sandvine said Amazon dropped from 1.75 percent to 1.31 percent, and that HBO dropped from 0.5 percent to 0.34 percent. But that’s not a lot of movement either way.

The one service that did leap a bit is Hulu, which is up from 1.1 percent to 2.41 percent.*

Sandvine fixed access 2013

Bear in mind that these numbers do include data transmitted from a home network, via Wi-Fi, to iPads, iPhones, Android tablets, etc. And that Sandvine said this kind of “home roaming” accounts for a whopping 20 percent of traffic now, up from 9 percent a year ago.

But Sandvine also tracks streaming traffic to mobile devices over wireless networks. And here it said that Netflix has made a move from 2.2 percent of downstream traffic to 4 percent in the last 12 months. YouTube, though, is still dominant: If you’re on the go, and you’re watching a moving image, there’s a very good chance you’re seeing something hosted by the world’s biggest video site.

Sandvine mobile access 2013
So what does any of that mean? Short answer: Netflix is streaming more video than ever — it added at least two million American users between measurements, and likely many more — but so are its competitors. So its lead is staying more or less the same. Sandvine said the average Internet household uses about 18 gigabytes of broadband a month — up from 10GB a year ago.

Still here? If so, you’ve probably read Ashlee Vance’s excellent Bloomberg Businessweek piece on the engineering that lets Netflix move all those bits into your house. If not, you should definitely read it now.

* Sandvine researcher Dan Deeth notes that the numbers his company provided last fall were collected in the first two weeks of September, which means that Hulu wouldn’t have had access to a batch of new TV shows from its broadcaster partner/owners. The numbers in today’s report were collected in the first two weeks of March, which means Hulu would benefit from new programming that ran during February sweeps; Netflix would have also benefited from any surge in “House of Cards” viewers.

Sandvine fixed access 2012

Sandvine mobile access 2012

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus