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As Netflix Password Sharing Crackdown Starts in the US and Other Territories, It’s Unknown How Netflix Will Enforce The Rules and What Exactly Classifies as a Violation

Netflix announced that password sharing notifications started rolling out in the US, Europe, Asia, New Zealand, Australia, and Middle East (103 countries and territories total) for members of their standard and premium plans (without ads), but with some changes on how they have done it in other countries. As expected, an account is only allowed to be shared with individuals living in the same “household”. You can add another member for $7.99 a month per person (US) and the extra member (1 or 2 max depending on account type) must be activated in the same country where the account owner created their account.

But unlike the password sharing rollout in New Zealand, Canada, Portugal and Spain, I don’t see Netflix asking US users to set a “primary location” for their account. See my post on that roll out here: “Netflix’s New Account Sharing Rules Are a Mess With Confusing, Incomplete and Conflicting Information.

It’s unknown how Netflix plans to enforce the restriction of password sharing with members who don’t pay to add new users to their account. It is interesting to note they are not giving users a pop-up message telling them to set a physical default location, like they implemented for users in New Zealand, Canada, Portugal and Spain. In those regions, Netflix said that if they, “detect persistent use of a device outside of the primary account owner’s household, we may ask them to verify that device before it can be used to watch Netflix.” Netflix said that members that trigger this alert will have to sign into their account and verify the device based on a, “verification code sent to the account owner email address”. It’s not clear if that’s how they plan to enforce password sharing in these new locations, but I would expect to see some sort of verification required.

During Netflix’s Q1 2023 earnings results, the company briefly discussed their paid sharing policies, which went into effect in New Zealand, Canada, Portugal and Spain in February. Although the company acknowledged there was an initial cancel reaction in Canada and the other markets, they said that churn was quickly offset, but didn’t give out any numbers on churn or cancellations. It should also be noted that the new rules rolled out about six week before the end of Netflix’s Q1 2023 quarter, so not enough time had gone by for them to truly see what the short or long-term impact might be, good or bad on their business.

As of the writing of this post, I have not gotten my notification email from Netflix as of yet nor do I see many on Twitter talking about the changes. But it’s coming and there is going to be quite the backlash online. Short-term, Netflix will take a hit with some cancellations but long-term, it’s possible they make more money by cracking down on account sharing. It’s something wall street and everyone else in the industry will be closely watching over the next few quarters.

Episode 58: YouTube TV, Apple TV and Netflix Suffer Live Streaming Outages; Disney’s Earnings Numbers; Netflix’s AVOD News

Podcast Episode 58 is live! This week I discuss the technical issues that YouTube TV, Apple TV and Netflix all had in the past 30-days with a live event/stream on their platform. I also break down all the key numbers from Disney’s earnings including the 3.8 million sequential decline of Disney+ Hotstar subs, their comments that the price increase for Disney+ without ads had no meaningful negative impact on churn, and the latest non-news on ESPN going DTC. Also highlighted are comments from FOX’s CEO on why they don’t have a D2C sports offering and Netflix’s announcement that their ad-supported plan has nearly 5M monthly active users globally.

Companies and services mentioned: Netflix, Disney, ESPN, Hulu, Peacock, NFL, IPL, FOX, Apple TV, YouTube TV, MLS Season Pass.

YouTube TV, Apple TV and Netflix Suffer Live Streaming Outages due to the Complexity of the Streaming Video Stack

In the past 30-days, YouTube TV, Apple TV and Netflix all had technical issues with a live event/stream on their platform. On May 17th, technical issues marred the final minutes of YouTube TV’s stream of the Heat-Celtics NBA playoff game on TNT with users getting a looping ad for The Little Mermaid. Clearly YouTube TV had some issues on the DAI side with insertion and playback of the ad. YouTube TV was quick to acknowledge the issue on Twitter saying, “we’re aware of it & our team is working on a fix.” [Updated May 22] Some YouTube TV users are reporting online that they have received two weeks of the service for free, after contacting YouTube TV about the outage.

On April 15th, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+ went down, due to a problem across all of Apple’s cloud services, with some users reporting an outage of two hours. Neither MLS or Apple communicated the technical issue on their websites nor social media channels, which is 100% unacceptable. Pretending it doesn’t exist is a TERRIBLE strategy, especially when it’s a service consumers pay for. [UPDATED May 19] Apple tells me that it was up to the clubs to determine how to communicate the outage with fans, with some clubs contacting fans to say, “We apologize for the technical difficulties with your MLS Season Pass subscription this past Saturday. The issue was resolved as quickly as possible that night. We appreciate your patience and support of [xx club] and MLS.” That’s good, but it happened after the fact and the outage wasn’t acknowledged at all during the outage.

One day later, on April 16th, Netflix’s live stream of the ‘Love Is Blind’ reunion never got underway as Netflix had a technical issue. The company acknowledged the problem on Twitter, apologized, and decided to make the video available on-demand only. In Netflix’s Q1 2023 earnings call, the company addressed the outage saying:

  • We’re really sorry to have disappointed so many people. We didn’t meet the standard that we expect of ourselves to serve our members. And just to be clear, from a technical perspective, you know, we’ve got the infrastructure. We had just a bug that we introduced. Actually, when we implemented some changes to try and improve live streaming performance after the last live broadcast Chris Rock in March, we just didn’t see this bug in internal testing because it only became apparent once we put sort of multiple systems interacting with each other under the load of millions of people trying to watch Love is Blind. So, we hate it when these things happen, but we’ll learn from it and we’ll get better and we do have the fundamental infrastructure that we need.”

All of these outages and technical issues are a reality of the industry when the streaming video stack is as complex as it is. These outages and technical issues will never go away completely – ever. Anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t living in reality. Yes, all streaming platforms are doing everything they can to mitigate outages and technical issues as much as possible, but these aren’t cable TV platforms which have 100% control over the entire video stack end-to-end, including the hardware.

The media doesn’t seem to understand the core differences in the technology and infrastructure of cable TV versus delivering video over-the-top. Some of their suggestions on how to “fix” these issues show a complete lack of understanding of the basics of how streaming media technology works. All that aside, outages across OTT platforms for both live and on-demand content will never go away. Overall, OTT platforms continue to improve upon the user experience and will become more reliable, but with more users, (scale) and new business models (advertising), it brings more complexity and technical challenges- and that will only increase.

Episode 57: Q1 Earnings Recap: Brightcove’s Layoffs; Vimeo’s CEO Bonus; Latest Cord Cutting Numbers; Resumes and Job Hunting In Today’s Market

Podcast Episode 57 is live! This week we highlight the Q1 earnings news from Brightcove (will lay off 10% of company), Vimeo (CEO could get $800,000 bonus), Paramount (+ added 4.1M subs), Comcast (Peacock subs up 2M), Warner Bros. Discovery (expects DTC business to be profitable this year) and the latest cord cutting numbers with over 1M pay TV losses in Q1.

We also discuss problems we are seeing with many resumes and LinkedIn pages by those looking for new jobs in the industry. We share feedback on what you should be doing if you are looking for a new job and how you should be setting yourself up for success.

Episode 56: NAB Show Highlights, Earning Numbers from Roku, Netflix, Comcast and Amazon

Podcast Episode 56 is live! This week we highlight some of the news from the NAB Show and detail the technologies and business models we heard talked about the most. We also discuss the trends we saw at the show, vendor messaging, specific data shared from speakers and what impressed us. We also cover some numbers you need to know on cord cutting, P&L and ARRU from earnings related to Roku, Comcast (Peacock), Amazon, Verizon, Meta, Netflix and others.

Companies and services mentioned: Roku, Netflix, Amazon, Verizon, Peacock, HBO Max, Comcast, Brightcove, Harmonic, Haivision, Amagi, IMAX, Bitmovin.

New OTT Demo Area at the NAB Show: Get Hands-One With Dozens of Streaming Services

At the NAB Show, I’ll be curating a special area on the exhibit floor in the West Hall called the “OTT Demo Area“. These 5 pods will feature hardware from Amazon, Apple, Roku, Google, LG, TCL, Vizio and Samsung – all showcasing dozens of streaming services including: Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, Discovery+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu+ Live TV, Sling TV, Netflix, Paramount+, Peacock TV, YouTube TV, Tubi, Pluto TV, ESPN+, Freevee, AMC+, fubo, DAZN and many others.

This area is part of the CONNECT Experiential Zone, in the West Hall. Come get hands-on with OTT services, during all 4-days of the NAB Show, for free! Link to area on show floor here.

AMD Announces New Video Processing Unit With the Goal of Enabling Interactive Video Services With Profitability

AMD has announced a new 5nm based ASIC based media acceleration solution, that’s being marketed as the Alveo MA35D, targeting video streaming applications that are highly personalized and interactive by nature, demanding low to ultra-low latency. This PCIe accelerator card is designed to enable up to 32 x 1080p60 transcode channels using the AV1 codec, while also supporting the H.264, and H.265 standards. AMD says the card can achieve a full 1080p60 ABR transcode at 1W for reduced power consumption and cooling.

The Alveo MA35D is targeting the rapid growth of what AMD calls “Second Generation” interactive media applications such as cloud gaming, live eCommerce, watch parties, sports betting, as well as ‘blended experiences’ that integrate many of these services at once. AMD says they anticipated the upcoming opportunity for these use cases several years ago and recognized the challenges in terms of infrastructure and operating costs to scale broadly. Their solution can achieve ultra-low latency transcodes—8ms at 4kp60—by offloading the video pipeline with hardware acceleration of decoding (AV1, H.26x, VP9), scaling, compositing, encoding (AV1, H.264, and HEVC), and additional pre- and post-processing functions.

With this new chip they’ve integrated AI processing enabling “Smart Streaming” to improve perceptual visual quality while simultaneously reducing bandwidth consumption per stream. During my discussions with Sean Gardner (Head of Strategy & Market Development) from AMD Video Acceleration group he stated that, “by creating an AI-enabled, intelligent video pipeline, customers will no longer be tied to the historical inefficient ‘configure for worst case scenario or Set & Forget’ approach when configuring and operating their video transcoding services. Now they will be able to adjust settings dynamically. While this new intelligent, dynamic processing will be able to demonstrate a 25% bandwidth reduction under certain conditions and content types, AI is not fool proof.”

It makes sense that this is why AMD has instantiated a VQ feedback loop. This VQ feedback loop integrates a hardened IP block that monitors in real-time, every frame coming out of the encoder, analyzing the dynamic changes being driven by the AI processing unit to ensure they are operating within the target QoE/QoS range set by the operator.  According to AMD what makes this significant is the fact that not only can they do this in real-time but at full density, providing the ability to transcode 32 channels of 1080p60 using AV1 and consuming 32W for this use case.

There is significant excitement in the industry around the development of video applications with new engagement and monetization models. AMD says it worked closely with leading providers to understand both their technical requirements and infrastructure challenges and tailored their new platform to meet the streaming density, performance, power-efficiency, and most importantly—cost-effectiveness—to scale these use cases. The 35W, HHHL PCIe card is priced at $1,595 USD MSRP, sampling to key customers today and will be in full production in Q3 of this year.

Indian Premier League (IPL) Opening Weekend Records 16 Million Simultaneous Streams, but also Reported QoE Issues

Viacom18 reported the opening weekend of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on Jio Cinema had a simultaneous stream count of 16 million viewers. While the numbers are impressive, Jio Cinema also faced criticism from viewers for streaming quality issues. Users complained on social media for two consecutive days that the English commentary lost its audio feed. There were also reports of “buffering issues, sound problems, screening problems, brightness problems, and pixelated streams”. Some users also reported that the Jio Cinema app crashed during the opening encounter between the Chennai Super Kings and the Gujarat Titans.

Viacom18 isn’t disclosing the average bitrate or percentage of users that were on mobile but the company did say that viewers spent an average of 57 minutes per match. Without more details on the average bitrate, quality of the stream and breakdown on devices used for viewing, it’s hard to compare one live streaming event to another. But just based on the simultaneous stream count alone, it would put IPL opening weekend in the top ten largest streaming events of all time. But please see the caveats above since we don’t have more details from the company to compare the stream to other previous live events.

Executive Interview: Eric Black Discusses the Latest Business Models and Technical Challenges in The Sports Streaming Market

For my latest “Executive Interview” podcast, I sit down with Eric Black, who joins me for a discussion about the sports streaming market. We discuss licensing costs, bundling and packaging of sports content, user personalization, the impact of low/ultra-low latency streaming, and discuss the focus of his new job, as CTO and GM of Media for Edgio. You can listen to the podcast here.

AOM Members Detail the Latest on AV1 Commercial Readiness, at the NAB Show Streaming Summit

At the NAB Show Streaming Summit, hear directly from the internet, tech, and media companies that make up Alliance for Open Media member base on their adoption of AV1 in real-world implementations, the benefits of AV1, and the future of where the codec is heading. Anne Aaron from Netflix will moderate a session with David Ronca from Meta, Iole Moccagatta from Intel and Alex Liu from NETINT. Full session details are on the NAB Show website here.

Episode 54: YouTube TV Price Increase; Problems at Twitch; Apple TV+ Content Might Come to Theatres

Podcast Episode 54 is live! This week we discuss the recent price increase at YouTube TV which will now start at $73 a month, which in some cases, is only a few dollars cheaper than cable TV in a triple-play bundle. We also highlight some recent news from Apple including rumors they may be partnering with studios to put more titles in theaters; Paramount+ announcing it will offer mobile-only plans in Brazil and Mexico; a detailed report on the challenges Twitch is facing; and a notice of proposed rulemaking from the FTC it dubs “click to cancel,” requiring companies to make ending a subscription equivalently simple to signing up for one.

Companies and services mentioned: Apple TV+, Paramount+, YouTube TV, Twitch, Netflix, Microsoft, MLB, Fire TV, MLB, FTC.

Episode 53: Reviewing Netflix’s First Live Streaming Event; Disney’s CEO Discusses Pricing, Hulu and DTC Growth

Podcast Episode 53 is live! This week we review Netflix’s success with their first live event from both a video quality and user interface standpoint and discuss what live streaming means to Netflix’s business since most consumers are not going to regularly tune into Netflix on a scheduled time. We also highlight a lot of interesting comments made by Disney’s CEO around the pricing and bundling of Disney+, how they are “very carefully” studying the streaming business to decide what to do with Hulu and his thoughts on what growth for Disney’s DTC business looks like going forward.

Companies and services mentioned: Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, ESPN, HBO Max, Warner Bros. Discovery, TikTok.

Fireside Chat: Xumo’s Evolution from FAST to Streaming Platform, and Its Industry Impact

Last year, Comcast and Charter established Xumo, a joint venture driven to bring consumers nationwide a new way to enjoy streaming entertainment in the home. I’m excited to sit down with Colin Petrie-Norris at the NAB Show Streaming Summit for a fireside chat, as the company prepares to launch its first streaming devices later this year. You can see full details on the session here and still get a ticket to the event. #streamingsummit

Episode 52: Earnings Recap from Warner Bros. Discovery, fuboTV, DISH, Brightcove, Vimeo + Sports Streaming News

Podcast Episode 52 is live! This week we detail the numbers you need to know from the Q4/full-year earnings of Warner Bros. Discovery, Vimeo, fuboTV, Vizio, Brightcove, DISH and Altice. We highlight revenue growth, free cash flow, pay TV subs lost, streaming subs gained and ARPU. We also cover some of the news around sports streaming and OTT services from MSG+, RSN licensing, NFL Sunday Ticket and Indian Premier League cricket.

Companies and services mentioned: Netflix, HBO Max, fuboTV, Warner Bros. Discovery, MSG+, Brightcove, Vimeo, DISH, Altice, YouTube TV, Tubi, Tubular Labs and Chartbeat.

Executive Interview: Harmonic Discusses the Latest Challenges and Opportunities in Cloud Workflows

I’m pleased to announce the launch of a second podcast, called “Executive Interviews“. Each month I interview executives to get their thoughts on opportunities and challenges they are seeing in the streaming media space. For this episode, Gil Rudge, SVP, Video Products and Solutions at Harmonic joins me for a discussion about some of the latest deployment trends for cloud-based video workflows. (Listen here)

We discuss the lack of adoption of 4K; the complexity of live sporting events; the trade-off between on-prem versus the cloud; and the success Harmonic has shown in diversifying the company’s revenue from hardware to the cloud.

If your company has an executive they would like to be considered for the interviews series, please reach out to me.

I’m Organizing Video Engineering Topics at The StreamTV Show, June 12-14 in Denver

I’m excited to announce that in association with the Fierce Video team, I will be organizing and chairing content tied to video engineering topics at the StreamTV Show, June 12-14 in Denver.

Called the Video Engineering Summit, these set of sessions will focus on technical content for developers, engineers, and business stakeholders, tasked with building great video experiences at scale. These technical papers, presentations and case studies will highlight and showcase some of the best ways to ingest, encode, package, and deliver streaming media services across the OTT, broadcast, media, sports, and entertainment industries. All of this content is included as part of the StreamTV show, at no additional cost to attendees.

If you are interested in submitting a technical paper or presentation, please reach out to me via email: dan@danrayburn.com and check out the website for some of the topics I expect to cover. It will be about 1.5 days of content, across one track.

Episode 50: Key Takeaways from Disney Earnings; Sling Launches FAST Offering; Pay TV Isn’t Dead

Podcast Episode 50 is live! This week we breakdown all the numbers from Disney’s Q4 calendar 2022 earnings including subscriber losses with Disney+ (2.4M); Gains at Hulu (800K) and ESPN+ (600K); announcement of 7,000 layoffs; loss of $1.1B from DTC business; latest ARPU numbers; the re-org of Disney into three divisions and the CEO’s comments that Disney is not considering a spinoff of ESPN. We also discuss Sling’s newly launched FAST service called “Sling Stream” and discuss why pay TV will not be “dead” in three years like some executives are suggesting. Thanks to this week’s podcast sponsor, Agora.

Companies and services mentioned: Netflix, Disney, AMC Theaters, Sling, Amazon Prime Video, Yahoo, Zoom, ESPN, Hulu.

Live Streaming the Super Bowl Across 12 Devices and 6 Platforms

I’m testing the FOX Sports live stream of the Super Bowl (1080p HDR, upscaled to 4K) across 12 devices from 6 different platforms including multiple models of Apple TV’s, Roku’s, Fire TV’s, Macbook’s, iPad’s and smart TVs from Samsung, LG and Vizio. The platforms I’m streaming from include the FOX Sports website, FOX Sports app, Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling TV and fubo TV. More updates to come…

If you’re looking for streaming stats from the 2022 Super Bowl, (blog post testing stream) note that NBC said the 11.2 million number they gave out is a viewers-per-stream figure and is not directly comparable to previous years, when co-viewing was not as prevalent. The figure comparable to past years is the 6 million number NBC released for 2022, which marks a 5% increase over the 2021 Super Bowl of 5.7 million AMA (Average Minute Audience).

Updated Feb 13 – FOX Sports says Super Bowl LVII was the most-streamed Super Bowl in history, delivering an average of 7 million streams, up +18% over last year (vs. 6 million). But last year NBC measured it with the Average Minute Audience (AMA) metric and the FOX Sports release simply says “average”. (UPDATED: FOX says that’s 7M “simultaneous”) I’ve asked for clarity if they mean AMA. The Super Bowl LVII live streaming audience includes consumption across: com; the FOX Sports app; FOX.com; the FOX NOW app; NFL digital properties including the NFL mobile app, the NFL Fantasy mobile app, NFL.com, the NFL connected TV app and NFL+ for subscribers.

Updated Feb 13 – FOX Sports streaming peaked at about 30Tbps.

10:21pm – That’s a wrap. I’ll update this post with streaming viewer stats when FOX Sports pushes them out in the next few days. FOX Sports did a great job on the event. Other streaming services looked to be good overall, with the only exception being fubo TV that seemed to have some issues.

10:12pm – YouTube TV’s support team does a good job of pointing users to a page on their site that shows users how to share “stats for nerds” with the YouTube team when viewers are having a problem. More streaming services should have a page like this. Throughout the game, YouTube support said they were, “actively monitoring things and everything is quite stable,” and provided timely updates to questions on reddit.com/r/youtubetv

9:46pm – For all the support people at the streaming services who have to deal with consumers online, I feel for you. Between Amazon TNF, World Cup, Super Bowl, Olympics, Apple Friday Night Baseball, HBO Max soccer etc. I’ve read and scrolled through easily 10,000+ comments in the past 12-months during live events, just on Twitter alone. The amount of cursing and language used by many are vicious. And the vast majority of those that report problems, provide no details of their device, error message, error code, zip code etc. requiring more back and forth then should be required.

9:33pm – I see very few people reporting issues with the stream on Hulu, but they did acknowledge they were looking into reports of people having issues when trying to switch profiles, with Hulu tweeting, “It sounds like you may be experiencing a behavior we’re currently looking into. Rest assured, we’re all hands on deck.”

9:15pm – In the browser from the FOX Sports website their encoding bitrate ladder shows 7 streams, all HLS TS going over Fastly, but they are not the only CDN involved. Akamai, Edgio and Amazon are also in the mix. Also note, no upscaled 4K version is shown, which I assume is because this is being viewed in the browser:

  • https://foxvideo.global.ssl.fastly.net/1677117580_4a9b207714a9ec0e02a28ed11b82ca38b8c9960a/*~/haw/mcl-haw/stream_7_270p_30.m3u8
  • https://foxvideo.global.ssl.fastly.net/1677117580_4a9b207714a9ec0e02a28ed11b82ca38b8c9960a/*~/haw/mcl-haw/stream_6_360p_30.m3u8
  • https://foxvideo.global.ssl.fastly.net/1677117580_4a9b207714a9ec0e02a28ed11b82ca38b8c9960a/*~/haw/mcl-haw/stream_5_480p_30.m3u8
  • https://foxvideo.global.ssl.fastly.net/1677117580_4a9b207714a9ec0e02a28ed11b82ca38b8c9960a/*~/haw/mcl-haw/stream_4_540p_60.m3u8
  • https://foxvideo.global.ssl.fastly.net/1677117580_4a9b207714a9ec0e02a28ed11b82ca38b8c9960a/*~/haw/mcl-haw/stream_3_720p_60.m3u8
  • https://foxvideo.global.ssl.fastly.net/1677117580_4a9b207714a9ec0e02a28ed11b82ca38b8c9960a/*~/haw/mcl-haw/stream_2_720p_60.m3u8
  • https://foxvideo.global.ssl.fastly.net/1677117580_4a9b207714a9ec0e02a28ed11b82ca38b8c9960a/*~/haw/mcl-haw/stream_1_1080p_60.m3u8

9:02pm – I find it odd Sling TV continues to recommend the FOX News Channel to me when I log out/in, instead of showing the Super Bowl as the first choice. I get this in the app and in the browser. Their stream is currently about 55 seconds behind broadcast for me on Fire TV and desktop.

8:49pm – Still more issues being reported on fubo TV. Unknown now many are being impacted.

8:27pm – I’m seeing some slight audio delay from the FOX Sports app on Fire TV and Roku which I didn’t experience earlier. 1-2 seconds behind the video.

8:10pm – Looking at the manifest file for FOX Sports website I see 60 FPS and streams coming from Akamai and Fastly. That’s not to say more CDNs aren’t involved, those are just the two I am seeing. Not surprisingly, Nielsen and Conviva are collecting data.

8:00pm – Fubo TV looks to be having some issues with errors being reported by users on Twitter and down detector as of 7:12pm. Stream not loading, constant buffering or errors. Unknown how widespread it may be but I’d consider it to be too many complaints when compared to other services. Fubo seems to know about the issue as they keep replying to people on Twitter saying, “As a workaround, you can use your fuboTV credentials in the FOX NOW app to sign in and watch through there.”

7:50pm – Looking at all of the Twitter accounts online for all the streaming services, YouTube TV has the most complaints of picture quality, buffering and reports of the stream being minutes behind the broadcast for some users. However, note that YouTube TV has more subscribers, both free trial users and paid, than any other live linear streaming service. So one would expect to see more complaints overall, due to the size of their audience.

7:39pm – Sling has some angry users on Twitter complaining they paid to get the Super Bowl but it’s no where to be found. While Sling does have the Super Bowl as part of their Sling Blue or Orange + Blue package, it’s only available in certain markets.

7:29pm – Hulu users are reporting online that Hulu went to a commercial in the middle of the National Anthem. I wasn’t toggled over to Hulu at that time, but sounds like an ad triggering problem.

7:20pm – Across all services, I am getting less latency streaming from the FOX Sports app when compared to any other streaming service. Latency of 7-30 is the norm across service and devices. Note that I don’t think latency is a big deal and there is no business incentive to get it down to sub-seconds. Hulu has the worst latency for me of any streaming service so far.

7:11pm – Multiple users online are reporting issues with FOX Sports app no loading, amongst other issues, but nothing that looks like more than normal. Some users are always going to have issues and will need to update OS, update app or do a restart of the device.

7:02pm – I started testing the streams about an hour before the game started and so far, I don’t see any major issues across any service with excess buffering. I see some audio sync issues with the FOX Sports app on Roku and I see a handful of people on Twitter reporting the same issue.

Notes: For all of these devices and my testing, Verizon is my ISP. All Fire TV devices are connected via ethernet and all other devices are a combination of Wi-Fi and ethernet. All devices are running the most up to date OS and app versions.

Netflix’s New Account Sharing Rules Are a Mess With Confusing, Incomplete and Conflicting Information

Netflix has a major problem. Since rolling out their new account sharing rules in Canada, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain, numerous problems with their policy have appeared. Customers have been left with a lack of details, confusing language, conflicting statements and instructions by Netflix support and a lack of transparency and clarity into how the new policy works. Over the past 48 hours, users are sharing their Netflix cancellation screens all over message boards and on social media.

Since the launch, I have spoken to more than a dozen friends in Canada, reviewed their accounts and chat logs with support and read through more than 1,000 comments on Twitter from consumers sharing issues they have encountered. I don’t say this lightly. Netflix has a very serious problem on their hands that needs fixing. If they roll out this new policy in the U.S. and other locations where they have the most subscribers, without making major changes, I think it will seriously hurt their subscriber numbers in a negative fashion.

The biggest problem Netflix has encountered is the poor job they have done in explaining to customers what has changed. Netflix is now enforcing that their service can only be used within a “single household”. Netflix has restricted their plan not based on who you are related to, but rather to a single address. As Netflix’s language states, “a Netflix account is for people who live in the same location.” While some might argue that Netflix has always said their plans were to be used by people living at the same location, that’s not how consumers think of it. In 2013, Netflix rolled out a new plan they called a “family” plan and while Netflix doesn’t use that term any more, that’s still how most of their customers think of being able to use Netflix, amongst family. Netflix may have changed their definition of a “household” a long time ago, but that definition has not changed in the eyes of consumers.

Some of the chat logs I have seen from Netflix support told users that if Netflix, “detects persistent use of a device outside of the primary account owner’s household, we may ask them to verify that device before it can be used to watch Netflix.” What is considered “persistent use” and what’s the methodology behind that? All I can find online is Netflix saying, “We use information such as IP addresses, device IDs, and account activity to determine whether a device signed into your account is connected to your primary location.” Netflix says that if you trigger this alert, you will have to sign into your account and verify the device based on a “verification code sent to the account owner email address”. Once you do verify the device, how long will the device work? Multiple users are reporting online that Netflix support has told them the device will be able to stream for 7-days and then will need re-verification. Online, I can’t find any mention of this.

If your kids are away at college, or deployed in the military, or you are charging your Tesla car at a Supercharger, based on Netflix’s language, these are use cases where you are no longer allowed to use the same Netflix account. Maybe you still can stream with your account, but the point is it’s unclear to consumers. When it comes to traveling Netflix says, “members can still easily watch Netflix on their personal devices or log into a new TV, like at a hotel or holiday rental,” but Netflix’s instructions online of how to do this are vague saying, “open the Netflix app on your mobile device(s) while connected to the Wi-Fi network at your primary location once a month and then when you arrive at the second location.” That might work for mobile devices, but what about a TV or device connected via ethernet at the second location? These instructions are found on the Netflix Canada FAQ page under the heading of “second home or frequent travel to the same location”, but what if it’s not the “same location” when traveling?

Adding to the confusion is language on Netflix’s site that says, “If you don’t watch Netflix on a TV or don’t have one, you do not need to set a primary location for your account.” Does that mean one can share their account with others outside of their primary location as long as Netflix is only being viewed on tablets and phones? Only a few days ago, on February 8th, Netflix tweeted out via their Netflix Canada account saying, “We know there’s been a lot of confusion about sharing Netflix,” and they provided a link to a short post on their website that lacks any details.

Starting on Saturday and now 24 hours later, going to Netflix’s FAQ page brings up a message that says, “We are currently experiencing a higher than normal wait time for support via phone and chat. Please try again later or check our online help center for answers to frequently asked questions.” It’s no wonder support is so busy.

Another issue that came to light is language on Netflix’s website stating that if you have two ISPs in your house, Netflix probably won’t work on both of them. Netflix’s Canada help page says, “If you have multiple Wi-Fi networks, we may only recognize one as your primary location. Devices connected to Wi-Fi networks that are using different ISP accounts or that have different external IP addresses may be blocked from watching Netflix.” If Netflix is using more than just IP addresses in their decisioning like they suggest, why would two ISPs be a problem? You could do a look up of both IPs and see they are at the same location.

There is also no explanation by Netflix of how devices will stream from within the same home, if they use ethernet to connect and not Wi-Fi. I have a TV in the basement where Wi-Fi doesn’t work, so it’s connected via ethernet. Based on Netflix’s language, the TV has to connect to Wi-Fi at least once every 31-days to be able to stream. Or maybe it doesn’t if it sees a similar IP on the device? In practicality, the TV connected to ethernet may work with no problems. But the point is, Netflix doesn’t address any of these questions anywhere online so consumers are making their own assumptions.

Another big question that Netflix doesn’t answer on their website or in any chat log I have seen to date is whether or not the account holder can change their primary location as often as they like. What do you do if you move? What if you rent a house for the summer and live at another location for a few months? What if you have a second home? Netflix says, “You can always update your primary location from a TV by connecting to your Wi-Fi,” but they don’t say how often you can do that. Will users have to do this every time they go on vacation and then change it back to their home addresses after each trip?

In response to a member of the military, Netflix support told them they would have to get a second account if they want to use Netflix in Canada as well as another country they might temporarily be stationed at, since Netflix’s new rules don’t allow you to add another person outside of your household in another country. Netflix is not taking into account people who work remotely for a living, traveling amongst different countries, which might be more people than ever in this new hybrid workforce. Netflix seems out of touch with how many in the world now work and the changes that have taken place since the pandemic.

In calendar year Q4 2022, Netflix had a Domestic (US and Canada) ARPU of $14.78, which doesn’t include any ad revenue. That means on average, for every user that cancels Netflix, they need two new people added to a Netflix account, at an average of $8 per user, just to make up for the user they lost. In my opinion, those seems like bad odds to take with the business.

Netflix knows that consumers gravitate to things that are easy to use. That’s been the hallmark of Netflix since the beginning. But with Netflix’s new account sharing rules, it is no longer convenient and consumers are confused. Netflix’s messing has been poor, its language vague and at times, conflicting. I can’t find any FAQ page on Netflix’s website that answers all of these questions on a single page. You have to click on multiple hyperlinked words, directing you to multiple pages to try and find more details. Online, some users are reporting they have cancelled their service simply due to the confusion and not having a clear understanding of how it all works, even if some of their assumptions are in fact wrong. Consumers don’t like uncertainty.

One would “assume” that Netflix is rolling this out in regions where they have fewer subscribers so they can learn from the experience and make changes for when they roll it out in the US, where they have the most subscribers. If this is not the case and Netflix rolls this out in the U.S., as is, they are going to see a volume of cancellations large enough to impact the numbers they give out to wall street, which we would see show up in calendar year 2023 Q2 earnings. I have no insight into how many consumers have already cancelled their accounts in the countries this has been rolled out in, or how many may have added a new user to their account, but as you can see online, this is a snowball rolling down hill.

Netflix should have made this simple by using simultaneous streams as the methodology to determine when you have to pay to add another user to your account. Customers would understand that metric and Netflix would not have to track IPs, devices, where a user was located or have users sign into Wi-Fi with devices every 31-days. If Netflix doesn’t backtrack on how they are rolling this out and realize how complex they have made it, their subscriber churn could get ugly.

Commercial Use Cases for GPAC: An Overview of Motion Spell’s Licensing Model

The deployment of GPAC open source software (OSS) across Netflix’s worldwide content operations was announced in November 2022 by Motion Spell SARL, a Paris-based media technology software and consulting company with a strong focus on R&D. Motion Spell is the exclusive commercial licensor of GPAC OSS.

As part of the deal, Motion Spell provided consulting expertise to Netflix’s R&D division. Netflix is not the only company to integrate GPAC OSS. Facebook also recently mentioned how they leveraged GPAC’s MP4Box to alleviate Instagram’s live video compute times by 94%. This choice prevented an upload capacity shortage within 12 months.

To get a deeper understanding of how GPAC is licensed, the use cases for commercial licensing, its value proposition for the streaming media industry, and how Motion Spell came to be the exclusive commercial licensor for the software, I spoke to Motion Spell‘s CEO Romain Bouqueau.

GPAC is a professional-grade multimedia open-source software and some consider it the leader in packaging and streaming. After 20 years of continuous development by the open source community, some suggest that GPAC OSS has commoditized the business of packaging. GPAC is now considered as a critical infrastructure component for video streaming services and today, GPAC is to packaging what FFmpeg is to encoding.

For packaging, GPAC is articulated around the ISO Base Media File Format (ISOBMFF), a technology developed at MPEG. The GPAC open source community has independently contributed to ISOBMFF and related technologies like fMP4, CMAF, DASH, or Common Encryption. Its efforts greatly contributed to the dominance of ISOBMFF, which is royalty-free (and has no relationship to the MPEG-LA patent-pool).

When a company licenses GPAC software they must either make themselves compliant with open source licensing rules, or, they have to request a commercial license from Motion Spell. Such a commercial license comes at a fraction of the price of building an equivalent product while keeping the flexibility of a custom software.

In a nutshell, open source software licenses enable anyone to use the software for free, but they have to respect certain requirements. Free software gives users the freedom to run, copy and change the software. When they distribute their own version of the software, modified or not, they then must provide their users with the same rights and publicly acknowledge its origins.

Some specific use cases include:

  • You don’t want to distribute GPAC source code as dictated by the LGPL. You don’t want to publicly acknowledge that you have used GPAC in any way. You do not want the name or accreditation to GPAC, or the GPAC filenames, to appear in your product.
  • You want to claim proprietary ownership over the code after you’ve modified it. You want to redistribute and charge for the modified software. You want to prohibit reverse-engineering of the modified software by third parties.
  • You want to do the above things, but you also need support, training or custom developments. For example, you need help to integrate or deploy GPAC into your operations. You use the GPAC libraries but you don’t know how to build your own GPAC executables.

Motion Spell’s CEO Romain Bouqueau says that Motion Spell was created to enable commercial licensing fees to be shared with the contributors. He said that over the course of its lifetime, $15M has been spent developing GPAC, so they needed funding to continue to sustain the software. Motion Spell is now inviting business users, who use the software extensively, to participate in the funding of this critical infrastructure, now that Motion Spell believes that packaging has become commoditized.

Motion Spell counts 100+ customers for GPAC including Netflix, Akamai, Fox, Cisco, Comcast, Ericsson and AWS Elemental. When joining the GPAC corporate community, Motion Spell makes it easy to access the necessary commercial licenses, plus support, training and custom developments for all kinds of commercial multi-media and video streaming use-cases.

Netflix and Motion Spell will present some of what they have done together at the NAB Show Streaming Summit, April 17-18 in Las Vegas.