Netflix Numbers: Good News, Bad News for Cable Ops


By Carl Weinschenk Senior Editor

There are very interesting and important things to be learned from Netflix's (NASDAQ:NFLX) November ratings of broadband network speeds.

This is the first such report that Netflix has published in a while. The over-the-top provider used to put them out regularly, but stopped several months ago. It says it will do so again on a monthly basis going forward. The company sends 1 billion hours of content to 30 million people per month, so it's safe to assume that it knows what it is talking about.

There is good news and bad news for operators. The good news is that eight of the top 10 performers are cable operators. The bad news is that the top two are not.

First, the disclaimers. Speed, of course, is only one piece of the puzzle, albeit an important one. The battle for the hearts and minds of the public also will be waged on services, programming and applications, the quality of customer service, and, of course, price.

But speed is an accessible concept. It is the most easily marketed capability of a broadband network.

Looking at the numbers more carefully tells an interesting story. The first is that, at this point, there is Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Fiber, and then there is the rest. The Google project is delivering streams at an average speed of 2.55 Mbps. That is 360 kbps faster than runner up Verizon's (NYSE:VZ) FiOS. Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Charter (NASDAQ:CHTR) are tied for the third and fourth spots, both hitting the tape at 2.17 Mbps.

It is interesting to note that the spread between the second and tenth fastest performers is only 130 kbps. Meanwhile, the difference between first and second is 36 kbps and between tenth and eleventh is 120 kbps. Bottom line: There is a big winner, a bunch of service providers bunched together, and then a pretty significant dropoff.

The cable operators dominate the footprint battle, however. The MSOs in the top 10 serve between 51 million and 52 million subscribers, roughly speaking. Google Fiber, which is just getting started in Kansas City, has negligible subscriber numbers. FiOS, at No. 2, has close to 4.5 million subscribers. Even if AT&T (NYSE:T), the eleventh fastest provider, is thrown into the equation, the telcos still have fewer than 9 million subscribers served.

So, in a sense, cable operators can't be faulted for feeling pretty good: The clear winner in essence is a tiny project, and the cable industry dominates the rest of the top tier of broadband carriers. Juicing things up for one or two cities is one thing; providing services over 10 or 12 states is another.

There clearly is validity in that assessment. However, cable operators shouldn't be complacent. Google already has announced an expansion within Kansas City. More importantly, CEO Eric Schmidt has dropped hints that the company is looking beyond KC. Of course, hints shouldn't be necessary. It's obvious that that's the plan.

Cable operators shouldn't dismiss what's going on. The industry should take a good look not only at how small Google Fiber is today, but also how enthusiastically it is being met. Companies actually are buying houses in the area of the city getting the service. Cable operators should keep in mind that Google is a private company, not a carrier. It can pick and choose where it builds. There is no reason that others can't do the same thing.

The bottom line is that there is a lot in the Netflix results about which cable operators should feel good. There also is a lot that they should think about.

Carl Weinschenk is the Senior Editor of Broadband Technology Report. Contact him at

Get the Broadband Technology Report Newsletters Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to email newsletters today at no cost and receive the latest information on:

  • Video Technology
  • Network Technology
  • Technology Alerts
  • BTR LATAM (Latin America)

SCTE-Cable Tec Expo 2016 Video Show Dailies

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 3

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 3

In our Video Show Daily for Day 3 of exhibits at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Philadelphia, BTR Editorial Director Stephen Hardy covers trends in distrib...

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 2

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 2

In our Video Show Daily for the second day of exhibits at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Philadelphia, BTR Editorial Director Stephen Hardy highlights furt...

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 1

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 1

BTR Editorial Director Stephen Hardy reviews the hot technologies and announcements from the first day of exhibits at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016 in P...

Diamond Technology Reviews - 2016 High Scores

2016 Diamond Technology Reviews Slideshow

2016 Diamond Technology Reviews Slideshow

Diamond Technology Reviews 2016

Diamond Technology Reviews 2016

BTR's Diamond Technology Reviews, now in its twelfth year, is a technology recognition program wherein vendors serving the broadband cable ...

Related Articles

Charter Communications

Charter Taps ARRIS for WorldBox 2.0

October 12, 2016

<!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:&...


Cisco Powers OTT Sports Apps

October 12, 2016

FloSports, a subscription-based OTT sports media company, has tapped Cis...


2016 SCTE Cable-Tec Expo Wrap Up

Whether you couldn't make it to Cable-Tec this year or want to see if you missed anything while you were there, you'll want to join BTR editors Stephen Hardy and Ron Hendrickson as they reveal their picks for the...

October 12, 2016
Sponsored by

Counting the cost: Efficiently transitioning from HFC to FTTH

HFC networks are uniquely positioned to provide compelling and competitive services, and are also uniquely positioned to transition to symmetrical FTTH as commercial requirements demand.  This webinar will d...

Date:September 22, 2016
Sponsored by

Maintaining High Quality of Experience in an Adaptive Bitrate System

This webinar will look at the many points in an ABR system where the video is touched.  From ingest (satellite, file, and IP), to egress, each point should be qualified for compliance to help maintain a high...

Date:August 25, 2016
Sponsored by

White Papers & Special Reports

Cable VoIP 2.0: Voice Moves to the Cloud

October 2016

Cable providers led the charge on the VoIP evolution and won customers and market share. Now voice networks are evolving again. The cloud voice platform has ...

Understanding Ultra High Definition Television

October 2016

Over the last 10 years, high definition television (HDTV) has been replacing standard definition television as the expected viewing format for television pro...

Are You Ready for DOCSIS 3.1? The Future of Cable Technology and How to Prepare Your Network

October 2016

DOCSIS 3.1 promises 10x capacity throughput and a range of technical benefits for cable providers and users alike. Are you ready? Discover the technical adva...

BTR Blogs

BTR Managing Editor Ron Hendrickson

FCC Rethinks Set-Top Plan

September 10, 2016

By Ron Hendrickson - The FCC has reworked the "unlock the set-top b...


In Memoriam: Richard Covell

August 18, 2016

By Rob Stuehrk, Publisher - We at Broadband Technology Report were sadde...

BTR Managing Editor Ron Hendrickson

Court Overturns FCC Municipal Broadband Order

August 11, 2016

By Ron Hendrickson - You win some, and you lose some, and the FCC just l...

Featured Hangouts

4K 4 U: How to Prepare for UltraHD Video

4K 4 U: How to Prepare for UltraHD Video

4K/UltraHD video is coming - consumers are buying the TV sets, and more content is becoming available. Watch this inf...

DOCSIS 3.1: A Look Ahead

DOCSIS 3.1: A Look Ahead

Watch a 30-minute video chat of experts from a variety of related disciplines discuss how close deployments really ar...

Featured Hangout

4K 4 U: How to Prepare for UltraHD Video

4K/UltraHD video is coming - consumers are buying the TV sets, and more content is becoming available. Watch this informative Hangout on demand by clicking the link above.

Sponsored by Verimatrix.