Netflix, the Video on Demand service that opened up to the whole world at the beginning of the year is starting to make changes that accommodate the diverse conditions in the different markets it now serves.
It has announced the introduction of cellular data controls which give subscribers using its mobile app the option to control the amount of data used when streaming content on mobile connections.
The option has been added to the latest versions of Netflix’s iOS and Android apps and is set under the App Settings tab. From there subscribers can switch off the automatic default setting and proceed to select a higher or lower data consumption option that determines the quality of video received.
According to Netflix, an adjustment to the default setting will enable the streaming of 3 hours of content for 1GB of data. Locally, that amount of data is currently available for an average of $2 through the various promotions being run by the three mobile operators.
Netflix has promised a balance between video quality and data consumption and in its statement explaining the option for adjusting data consumption it has said,
The default setting will enable you to stream about 3 hours of TV shows and movies per gigabyte of data. In terms of bitrates, that currently amounts to about 600 Kilobits per second. Our testing found that, on cellular networks, this setting balances good video quality with lower data usage to help avoid exceeding data caps and incurring overage fees.
For markets like Africa and especially for Zimbabwe Video on Demand (VOD) is generally understood as an awesome entertainment alternative that will one day be the one option that can disrupt monopolies like State-owned television and DStv.
For now, though, it struggles to justify its practicality because of the prohibitive cost of internet. In as much as fixed internet solutions are penetrating more households, any significant adoption that translates to a mass adoption of VOD and triple play services hasn’t been realised.
In Zimbabwe, the challenge is also heightened by the fact that the majority of internet connections are still made through mobile broadband services which have generally refused to usher in major price changes citing the high cost of setting up networks.
The end result is that the cost of internet, which is the one variable that has to be tweaked, isn’t being adjusted as fast as Netflix would like.
Changes like the option to adjust quality to ensure more access for less data represents Netflix’s own push to make VOD a reality earlier than expected. It’s the first major move Netflix has made in that direction and if it is followed by options like offline access that it has admitted to being open to, there just might be a genuine rise in Netflix use even in Zimbabwe.