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This article was published on October 3, 2018

Report: Netflix is the internet’s top bandwidth hog

Report: Netflix is the internet’s top bandwidth hog
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

If you’re a Netflix subscriber, chances are that you are contributing to 15 percent of the downstream traffic of the internet. The term downstream is defined as “traffic volume downloaded from the internet,” and refers to things like video streams, page loads, or files downloaded from a remote location.

A report by Sandvine – a network equipment company – suggests that the streaming service is the biggest contributor to the volume of downstream traffic worldwide.

Netflix, which added almost 27 million subscribers in the past year, leads the front in video streaming services as well, with a global market share of 26.58 percent. The report says that video streaming is the top traffic contributor of the internet followed by web browsing and gaming.

Interestingly, file sharing website Openload (which might be familiar to pornography connoisseurs, wink wink) is ahead of mainstream services like Hulu and HBO Go.

Meanwhile, BitTorrent holds the top position for upstream traffic with 22 percent market share, proving piracy is still alive and kicking. A key factor in the persistence of BitTorrent traffic is the vast amounts of exclusive content tied to specific streaming services. Examples include Game of Thrones for HBO, Narcos for Netflix, Jack Ryan for Amazon and The Handmaid’s Tale for Hulu.

Sandvine’s 2017 internet phenomena report highlighted that approximately 7 million consumers in North America use pirated TV streams to consume content.


Credit: Sandvine

The rapid global increase in internet penetration is only good news for Netflix, and the company is heavily investing in creating shows for local audiences of different countries. It is also experimenting with interactive shows which will let you choose your own path to entice customers to stay on the platform for a longer time.

Here are some other interesting findings from the report:

  • 50 percent of the internet traffic is now encrypted.
  • Instagram is the biggest social network in terms of traffic, followed by Facebook.
  • Skype is the top messaging app, followed by WhatsApp.
  • Spotify holds the crown amongst music streaming services.
  • League of Legends is the biggest game, followed by Epic Games’ Fortnite.

Credit: Sandvine

We should take this report with a pinch of salt as the company has clarified that it doesn’t have significant data from China and India – both of whom have hundreds of millions of Internet users apiece.

If those countries were included, we’d probably see vastly different results. Netflix, for example,isn’t available in China, and both countries have several major indigenous streaming platforms with millions of subscribers each.

You can find the report here (PDF).