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Why Is Most Broadband Content Still Encoded At 300Kbps?

My earlier post got me thinking about why, in 2007, the average bitrate for a video file delivered via streaming media is still encoded in 300Kbps? Is it purely because content owners don’t want to pay more money to delivery their videos at higher bitrates? Or is the trade off between quality and price acceptable for the current content business models we have today?

Over the past 10 years, we saw the bitrates increase from 20Kbps to 37Kbps, to 80Kbps, to 100Kbps and then to 300Kbps. Yes, there is some content available in 500Kbps and 750Kbps but still very, very little. We’ve been at 300Kbps for years now and I don’t yet see a shift in that bitrate being bumped up to say 500Kbps. Why is that? Are you content owners satisfied with the quality you get now and the cost to deliver that content? Are you happy with the trade off of lower quality content delivered for a cheaper price? If that’s the case, I think that’s ok. Some trade-offs are acceptable. But it has me thinking about what is stopping the increase of what we classify today as broadband video content?

I don’t think it is a lack of capacity on the networks of the CDNs who are delivering most of this content and I don’t see the viewers having any computer or end-mile limitations stopping them from getting a 500Kbps stream today. So what is stopping the adoption of high bitrate content?

I’d love to get some thoughts and feedback to this question.