Almost two months ago, Netflix said it would reduce video bit rates for 30 days in Europe, aiming to reduce bandwidth consumed by customers by 25% during the COVID-19 crisis. It has now been 55 days since that announcement — and Netflix customers in Europe and the UK say the streamer is still delivering throttled HD and Ultra HD video, in some cases with bit rates at less than 50% usual.
Netflix chief Reed Hastings — who has been an ardent and vocal supporter of net neutrality rules to ensure service providers don’t discriminate against internet content companies — said the US reversal on net neutrality won’t have an impact on the streamer’s business. “Around the world, net neutrality has won as a consumer expectation,” Hastings said. “I would say the net neutrality advocates have won the day, in terms of those expectations, so we don’t see any changes of that in the US or other countries.”
The biggest risk to Facebook — and the digital-ad business overall — would be a wide-ranging privacy-protection law on the order of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act in the banking sector. That established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, designed to keep predatory lenders in check, along with a host of new regulations.
AT&T will not force U-verse TV customers to take DirecTV service, if the telco’s $67 billion deal for the satcaster goes through, CFO John Stephens said.
“Customers will have their choice,” said Stephens, speaking at the JP Morgan Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. “They can stay on U-verse. This transaction is not based on freeing up wired capacity.”
AT&T at the end of March 2014 had 5.7 million U-verse TV subscribers, making it the fifth-biggest pay-TV provider in the US. “Our customers are very happy. They’re voting with their feet to stay with us,” Stephens said, noting that the telecommunications company has been adding about 200,000 TV subscribers per quarter.
Comcast exec VP David L. Cohen isn’t sure how the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed network neutrality rules will define broadband providers’ ability to charge for an Internet “fast lane” but said that in any case, the cable giant has the right to offer paid prioritization to partners.
“Whatever it is, we are allowed to do it,” said Cohen. Cohen, who leads the operator’s public policy and communications efforts, referred to the “almost hysterical reaction” to reports about the FCC’s revised net neutrality rules. “You have the whole world reacting to a document no one has seen,” he said.
Comcast has agreed to comply with the 2010 FCC Open Internet order, under the terms of its government consent decree for NBCUniversal, until 2018 -- even though the main parts of that order were struck down by the DC Circuit in January.
“We are not sure we know what paid prioritization, or what a fast lane, is,” Cohen said. “Fast lane sounds bad… (but) I believe that whatever it is, it has been completely legal for 15 or 20 years.”
Comcast continues to paint Netflix as a competitor, as the cable giant keeps trying to make the case that it needs to swallow Time Warner Cable to have a presence on a national scale -- and compete with what it portrays as surging digital-video rivals.
Comcast Chairman-CEO Brian Roberts said that with the TW Cable acquisition and subsequent spinoff of systems to Charter Communications, Comcast will add a net 7 million customers. That would give Comcast about 30 million video subscribers -- and Roberts noted that Netflix now has more than 35 million US subscribers. The merger will give “the industry a better opportunity to have a footprint regionally and hopefully nationally,” Roberts said.
In reality, Comcast and Netflix aren’t really directly competitive: They offer different kinds of content, and Netflix is not a replacement for the broad programming available on pay TV. Comcast does offer a Netflix-like streaming service, Streampix, but that’s bundled with TV and has a much smaller content lineup. In addition, Comcast’s video biz is far larger in dollar terms. Comcast posted $5.18 billion in video revenue for the first quarter of 2014, whereas Netflix generated $1.27 billion.
[Commentary] Here’s what Viacom’s lawsuit actually did: It spurred YouTube to accelerate the development of tools to detect -- and pull down -- copyrighted material, in an automated way.
Given that YouTube users upload 100 hours of video every minute, Viacom (and others) complained that it was not feasible to monitor that volume manually and send out DMCA takedown requests one at a time.
It was only during the Viacom court proceedings that YouTube announced it would filter content for all copyright holders, not just its business partners. No doubt, YouTube would have evolved its practices to a more content-owner-friendly system -- eventually. But the lawsuit prompted it to move more quickly than it would have otherwise, and also served notice to other user-generated content sites that Viacom was prepared to take aggressive legal action.
Comcast customers can now buy access to “House of Cards” season 1 through their cable set-top box and watch it across multiple devices -- no Netflix subscription required.
The cable giant struck a pact with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, giving Comcast rights to sell the Emmy-winning first season of “House of Cards” through the recently launched Xfinity Store service. Netflix currently owns exclusive streaming rights to the Media Rights Capital-produced series, while Sony handles international and home video distribution.
In addition, Comcast will add select Sony titles to its early electronic sell-through service, which offers access ahead of the traditional video-on-demand-rental window.