The prominence of streaming video services in overall internet usage reflects what analysts predicted such services would do when they debuted years ago: dominate the web’s bandwidth. At least in North America, where Netflix sits leagues in front of other websites in terms of internet usage. A recent report from network equipment maker Sandvine shows that Netflix’s usage in North America over the past six months accounted for 35% of traffic on fixed-access networks. (Usage on cell phones was not considered in the analysis, and the figure was determined during the peak hours of use: evenings.) This figure is up from 34% from the previous six months.
Compare that figure to 14% usage of YouTube, which comes in at second place on the report from Sandvine. That’s a pretty large gap — especially considering YouTube is one of the top most-used online applications in the world. Facebook clocks in at fourth place with 2.98% usage, iTunes at sixth with 2.77%, Amazon Video at eighth with 2.58%, and Hulu at 10th with 1.41%.
The report illustrates how streaming video services have evolved into some of the most profitable online services around, although Netflix is clearly by-far-and-away the most popular. Still, as the numbers dwindle on the top-10 list, the gaps become narrower. And considering Amazon Video was launched years after Netflix, and doesn’t operate in Canada, its figures aren’t bad. Amazon Video also saw its usage double in the last 18 months.
Other streaming services are beginning to pick up steam, while some have yet to launch. CNET quotes Dave Caputo, chief executive of Sandvine: “With both Netflix and Amazon Instant Video gaining bandwidth share in North America during 2014, it will be fascinating to see how a standalone HBO Go streaming option will impact networks when it launches in 2015.”
Netflix’s dominance of bandwidth usage during peak hours has been one of the drivers for its vocal support of net neutrality regulation in the U.S. The company began throwing its two cents into the debate as one of the loudest proponents of such regulation earlier this year. Its CEO penned an essay explaining how broadband provider Comcast used an agreement reached by the two companies in order to manipulate Netflix’s direct-end access to users as opposed to its interconnection — Netflix had agreed to pay more for the latter in order to alleviate some of the bandwidth costs for Comcast.
It only makes sense that one of the most widely-used — and at certain times of day, the most used — internet services would seek regulation barring web “fast lanes”. But as the net neutrality debate rages on, and Netflix’s usage — along with that of other streaming services — grows in popularity, more political clashes are likely in the future.