Netflix, YouTube gobble up half of Internet traffic

Netflix and YouTube together make up half of peak Internet traffic in North America while their main rivals barely register, a study says. At the same time, file sharing is a sliver of its former self.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
2 min read

Netflix is still the Goliath, and YouTube is only getting bigger.

In general, video and audio streaming continues to eat up the greatest traffic of any category on virtually every network reviewed by Sandvine, which runs fixed and mobile data networks worldwide and reports on what is taking place on them.

In North America, Netflix and YouTube are the main traffic culprits, according to its twice yearly Global Internet Phenomena Report. Combined, they account for 50.31 percent of the downstream traffic during the peak part of the day.

By comparison, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu garnered just 1.61 percent and 1.29 percent, respectively.

The rankings come the same week that Amazon is set to premiere its first original television series, "Alpha House," as its answer to the Netflix push for homegrown programming like "House of Cards" and "Arrested Development." Netflix has been devoting a sizable chunk of its content budget to its own shows to rely slightly less on licensing other companies' content and to try to become something akin to the Internet's version of HBO. The company has even shifted to referring to itself as the "world's leading Internet television network" rather than the leading Internet video subscription service.


However, in an email to CNET, Sandvine noted that Netflix's originals didn't appear to move the needle on traffic when the new series were released. In fact, Netflix traffic overall dipped very slightly in the latest six month period.

Netflix's traffic needle is a pretty big one to move, though, and the effect of originals is more likely to manifest in subscription tallies than in traffic changes, Sandvine also noted.

Netflix has kept mum about how much its original programming pulls in subscribers and keeps them signed up, but a Nielsen study suggested that original programming has quickly become a key factor in what its customers are coming to watch.

Streaming video's dominance of worldwide traffic should "lead to the emergence of longer form video on mobile networks globally into 2014," Sandvine said in its report.

Now, average monthly mobile usage in the Asia-Pacific region accounts for more than 50 percent of peak downstream traffic and exceeds 1GB, more than double the 443MB average in North America, Sandvine said. It added that video accounts for less than 6 percent of traffic in mobile networks in Africa, but is expected to grow faster there than in any other region before it.

Meanwhile, file sharing continued emaciating on many fixed-access networks as streaming video options like Netflix, YouTube, and others proliferate.

File sharing now accounts for less than 10 percent of total daily traffic in North America, down from the more than 60 percent it netted in Sandvine's first Global Internet Phenomena Report released more than 10 years ago.

Five years ago, it accounted for more than 31 percent.