Canadian Netflix tweak creates quality choices, less data usage

Netflix continues to dominate the online video streaming market thanks to its reasonable cost and impressive supply of content. The company even landed its own exclusive drama series in “House of Cards,” a remake of the popular British mini-series of the same name, after an expensive bidding war with networks like AMC and HBO. But that’s not to say everything is flowers and sunshine for the company.

Showtime and Starz almost simultaneously announced a scale-back on support for the streaming service last week, resulting in completely pulled programming and a 3-month wait period for new shows, respectively.

A new development that affects only Canadians Netflix subscribers (so far) may not spell disaster, but it’s enough to get some talking about just how the company will handle possible future issues and whether or not U.S. users should anticipate the change crossing the border.

Canadian Netflix tweak creates quality choices, less data usage

Posting on the official Netflix blog, Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt outlined the change which would drastically reduce the amount of data Canadian subscribers use.

“Now Canadians can watch 30 hours of streaming from Netflix in a month that will consume only 9GBytes of data, well below most data caps,” he said.

Three new settings are now available: “Good,” “better” and “best.” The lowest setting uses .3 GBs an hour, the middle .7 GBs and the highest picture quality eats anywhere from 1-to-2.3 GBs for every hour, depending on whether or not the content is streaming in high-definition.

Hunt guarantees the picture quality will only suffer slightly under the new settings, but points out users unsatisfied with the change can simply switch back to previous settings which allow for higher quality video and the resulting higher data usage.

Worries surrounding the cost of data and possible caps aren’t new, and certainly this move to reduce data usage speaks to those fears.

Late last year a brouhaha between Comcast and Level 3 Communications over fees involving the latter taking on the bulk of Netflix’s streaming content. The battle highlights another issue facing Netflix: the fact that it’s essentially competing against the very content providers it relies on.

For now, Netflix hasn’t announced plans to bring over these changes to the U.S. Consider it a Canadian-exclusive Netflix “feature” – for the time being at least.