Online streaming giant Netflix, which is responsible for a huge amount of traffic flowing across the Internet during the evening, is experimenting with ways to save bandwidth. Until now, Netflix has just served up a different version of an episode or film depending on your Internet connection—if you have a slow connection, you get a low-res stream; if you have a fast connection, you get a high-res 1080p stream. Now the plan is to stream big films and dramas at a high bitrate, while "visually simple" shows like My Little Pony would be streamed at a much lower bitrate.
Variety reports that, at the moment, a low-end stream for slow connections is encoded at a bitrate of 235Kbps, which delivers video at a resolution of 320×240. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is a 5800Kbps version for 1080p viewing. The reason for this change stems from how Netflix works: streams are configured to match the user’s available bandwidth.
This approach was deemed somewhat inefficient, however. “You shouldn’t allocate the same amount of bits for ‘My Little Pony’ as for ‘The Avengers,’” Netflix video algorithms manager Anne Aaron said to Variety. Since 2011, Netflix has been working on a new, adaptive method of encoding videos, depending on the visual complexity of the video. With the proposed changes to encoding rules, the 1080p version of My Little Pony, which is full of solid colours and simple textures, is encoded at a bitrate of just 1500Kbps, down from 5800Kbps.