Bandwidth Pricing Trends: Cost To Stream A Movie Today, Five Cents: In 1998, $270

While working on a inquiry for WIRED magazine, I was looking through a lot of my data on bandwidth pricing over the past ten years. It's incredible to see just how much the cost of bandwidth has declined and how that rate has accelerated over the past decade. And that rate of decline is just for what content owners were paying and does not even include the rapid pricing decline we've all witnessed with transit costs.

In 1998 the average price paid by content owners to deliver video on the web was around $0.15 per MB delivered. That's per bit delivered, not sustained. Back then, nothing was even quoted in GB or TB of delivery as no one was doing that kind of volume when the average video being streamed was 37Kbps. Fast forward to today where guys like Netflix are encoding their content at a bitrate that is 90x what it was in 1998.

To put the rate of pricing decline in terms everyone can understand, today Netflix pays about five cents to stream a movie over the Internet. If Netflix tried to do this in 1998, at the same quality they are doing it today, it would of cost them $270 per movie. Of course, in 1998 no one was capable of getting a 3Mbps stream, but even if Netflix only encoded their videos for 37Kbps in 1998, it still would have cost them $2.40, $4.80 to stream one movie. (I forgot to double the number for 2 hours) Gives you an idea of just how far video quality, consumption and pricing has come over the past ten years. Yet even with the rapid rate at which pricing has declined, ten years later, companies are still struggling to figure out how to make money from online video.