Netflix "Watch Instantly" quality

Netflix has a section called "Watch Instantly" where you can watch movies on your laptop or PC. The movies are a real mixed bag. There are numerous dregs but there are some real gems in there. I will sit on the couch and watch a movie on my laptop from the "Watch Instantly" selection. Over the past week I have noticed that the display quality of the movies has really gone down. I thought something was wrong with my eyes for a little while because some of the scenes seemed blurry. But I was noticing that movies were loading much quicker so I had a suspicion that Netflix was removing quality to make the files smaller so that they would transfer quicker.

Today my suspicion was confirmed. They sent me a survey email that asked:

Survey: How Was the Picture and Audio Quality?

You recently watched The Bridge at Remagen. To help us ensure a great experience for all members, would you take a moment to tell us about the picture and audio quality?

The quality was very good

The quality was acceptable

The quality was unacceptable

Thanks for your help!

-Your friends at Netflix

This email confirmed for me that they are playing with the quality. I responded to the survey by saying that quality was unacceptable. Just wanted to point this out in case anyone else was experiencing the same thing.

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Unlike download then play solutions like video podcasts, streams can be impacted by a variety of factors. Over the past week we've had a holiday. Many, many school kids in North America are out of school. Normally network load is worse than usual. Netflix might not have messed with anything at all but may be looking at how to work around such technical issues.

Streams depend upon constant flow. With disruptions by all sorts of potential factors, streams can be degraded. Latency is usually a huge problem that there is no commercialized way to get around it yet.
Stephen Michael Kellat, Host, LISTen
PGP KeyID: 899C131F

With my lowest tier DSL connection, Netflix Watch Instantly doesn't work well for me at all. It takes about an hour to prepare for a 1/2 hour episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Then the show plays perfectly for about 10 minutes, then takes a 20 minute break to load the next part. I really prefer watching stuff at YouTube because it really buffers well, even if the picture quality isn't sharp.

So if there was an option that allowed me to take better advantage of Watch Instantly that was a little fuzzy, I'd take it. But it should be an OPTION and not something everyone is forced into.

"No doubt another may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so.." - Thoreau

To view Netflix films online, they are pretty high. The device they are selling for 100 dollars that allows you to use wifi to send the streams from your DSL or cable internet connection to your television using the Roku box they now offer requires a least a 1.2 Mbps connection (download speed) for low quality video and 2.5 Mbps is the minimum recommended speed. Roku is a leader in a the wireless internet device field (they made some of the earliest internet radio/media players that allow you to either listen to internet radio streams without having your computer turned on, or allow you to listen to MP3 files that has been downloaded or ripped to your computer) They make a very good table top radio that allows you to listen to internet radio streams in MP3 or Windows Media format and also has a decent AM/FM player as well. Most internet radios dont have an AM/FM stage, nor do they offer the same quality sound system. I have several internet radios, but none have the built in subwoofer systems that the Roku has. Nor do they allow me to plug in an MP3 player, usb drive or SD card to play music like the Roku does. The Roku units are basically the top end for these devices. Originally they were pretty much the only thing available, except for a few Linksys router type devices that only play MP3 Streams and allow you to access music files on your computer. Those cost 175 dollars two years ago and are now on clearance for less than 20 dollars. Roku's devices which came out at about the same time are still top of the line models, even though less expensive items have come out. I have several newer models as well as the Linksys, but the Roku model is on my wish list for next Xmas. The sound is as good as a Bose wave radio, with the additional ability to access over 20,000 internet radio and music stations at any rate they transmit at which in some cases is CD quality.

This is basically the next big thing in streaming media. Many companies have gotten the internet music and radio streaming technology down pretty well, but not many have done so with streaming video.

BTW, if you have an XBox 360 and a Gold Live membership (something like $30 for three months/$60 for a year), you can Watch Instantly with that as well.

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