Netflix Canada fights caps with smaller streams, brokers deal with Paramount Pictures

Apparently it's Canada Week here at the Technofile. Yesterday I told you about Rogers Communications throttling WoW players, today I'm going to talk about Netflix in Canada.

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The first news is that Netflix has managed to reduce the data usage of their streaming content. Starting immediately, Netflix will take up on average 2/3rds the bandwidth that it used to, "with minimal impact to video quality." Netflix says Canadians can watch 30 hours of content and use up only 9 GB of bandwith, down from anywhere between 30 GB and 70 GB (!) under the old system. Since there is some minor lessening of picture quality you can opt out of these new lighter streams if you don't have a cap. Lots more details can be found on the Netflix blog, including an explanation of the dark magic they used to manage this trick. Bandwith caps are a pain, but lack of content can be an even bigger issue for Canadian Netflix users, or so I'm told. The fact is, when it comes to digital content we have it pretty good here in the US. I'm constantly being contacted by readers asking if various digital content services are available in their country and almost invariably the answer is "No" or at best "Not yet." Netflix has only been available in Canada since last September (as a streaming-only service) and their selection isn't that great (of course I hear that about Netflix streaming in the US too, mostly in reference to their movie selection). Yesterday Netflix took a step toward rectifying that situation when it announced a five-year deal with Paramount Pictures to have the exclusive television subscription rights to all first-run Paramount movies. The content has already starting rolling out with Iron Man 2 becoming available on March 25th. (This is according to Netflix; can any Canadian users confirm? [Update: Thanks to Dave for confirming this for me, he's in Toronto and watching Iron Man 2 on Netflix.]) All told the deal will bring 350 additional titles to Netlfix Canda; everything from classics like The African Queen to recent titles like The Last Airbender. This seems like a win for Netflix (and Canadian Netflix users) which it could use about now. In recent weeks both Showtime and Starz have pulled back from their partnerships with Netflix (in the US). Starz announced it would hold back content for 90 days after it airs, and Showtime has said it will no longer allow streaming of current shows such as Dexter and Californication. Canceled series such as The Tudors will continue to be available. As Hollywood becomes more and more aware of the clout that Netflix is wielding these days we can expect more re-negotiation of streaming deals. It's not all bad news for Netflix US; the Wall Street Journal reports that Netflix is nearing completion of a five-year deal with Miramax to stream their entire library. Thus far no confirmation of this from Netflix or Miramax.

Peter Smith writes about personal technology for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @pasmith.

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