Hey, what’s that up in the vividly detailed sky displayed on your enormous HDTV’s screen? Look! It’s an incredibly crisp-looking bird … it’s a vibrantly colorful plane … no, it’s Netflix’s Super HD video streaming!
Yes, that’s right folks, Netflix announced today that all of its 30 million domestic subscribers will now be able to access movies and TV shows in the Super HD 1080p video format. Super HD, which is the highest quality video format offered by Netflix, is likely called “Super HD” because it’s far more memorably to nontech people (like my mom) who only understand that the movie they’re watching isn’t as detailed and crisp as it could be.
It’s worth noting that not every video in Netflix’s library is available in the Super HD format, such as campy ’80s teenage rom-com films, Good Burger, and other awesomely bad films and TV series originally produced more than a decade ago.
Super HD, which launched back in January, was only available to Netflix members that were using an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that agreed to join the company’s Open Connect Network. The Open Connect Network is a really good thing for ISPs, too. It essentially helps ISPs minimize the massive strain Netflix puts on their overall network (thus speeding up the entire connection for everyone) and saves them money by reducing their reliance on third-party distribution services like Level 3. It also doesn’t cost ISPs anything — making it a bigger risk not to use the Open Connect Network.
Still, that didn’t stop some major ISPs from declining.
Time Warner Cable was among those that decided not to join Netflix’s Open Connect, thus denying all their customers access to the best quality video streams when watching movies and TV shows.
TWC’s explanation for not joining was that it doesn’t need Netflix’s help because its technology for managing Internet traffic was more than capable of handling the strain of Super HD streaming — despite Netflix accounting for over a third of all downstream web traffic in the country at peak usage times. (TWC then made the wild accusation that Netflix was holding their customers hostage by denying them the Super HD streaming due to the ISP’s disagreement. It also suggested that Netflix was trying to make themselves an exception to Net Neutrality by asking for special treatment, which is not at all true.)
But as of today’s member-wide Super HD roll out, there are now zero “hostages” — thank the gods.
Netflix, however, did point out that members using an ISP that still hadn’t joined the Open Connect won’t be able to get the optimum experience when accessing Super HD-quality videos.
And if you decipher that forced-smile-of-a-statement, it basically means ISPs like TWC could be slower overall during peak Internet usage times now that Super HD is enabled for everyone. Also, it means the likelihood of maintaining a Super HD-quality video stream on ISPs like TWC will be much lower. Fortunately, Netflix’s technology automatically adjusts to lower quality video formats based on the Internet connection (aka adaptive streaming), so you shouldn’t have to deal with videos stopping to buffer constantly.