Netflix has developed a new way to encode its programming, cutting its bandwidth needs up to 20%. Much of the data savings will come from streaming bitrate adjustments Netflix makes based on both the user’s bandwidth and the type of content being streamed. This will supersede the company’s old methods of bandwidth throttling, which would downgrade bitrates to as little as 235 Kbps for slow connections. Netflix said the new encoding will aim to provide a 5.8 Mbps bitrate for all programming.
Netflix also realizes that different content can look good at lower bitrates. For example, animated shows can be streamed at as little as 1.5 Mbps, even with 1080p resolutions. The company has been working on the new encoding schemes since 2011, and testing them with little fanfare over the past few months. The company currently accounts for more than a third of all U.S. data traffic, and with 4K content on the horizon, is attempting to “be good stewards of the Internet,” as one Netflix manager put it.