Netflix was taken to task on Wednesday by Time Warner Cable for seeking preferential treatment from cable TV providers for its Open Connect network that delivers Super HD and 3D streaming content to users.
"While they call it 'Open Connect,' Netflix is actually closing off access to some of its content while seeking unprecedented preferential treatment from ISPs," Time Warner Cable said in a statement provided to Multichannel News.
"We believe it is wrong for Netflix to withhold any content formats from our subscribers and the subscribers of many other ISPs," the company added. "Time Warner Cable's network is more than capable of delivering this content to Netflix subscribers today."
Open Connect allows Netflix to increase the speed at which it can deliver streaming content. It supports the larger bandwidth needed for formats like 3D and Super HD, a format that uses less compression than an HD stream but consumes more bandwidth.
"These new Super HD and 3D formats are more challenging to deliver than our other video streams, which is why we will deliver them through Open Connect," Ken Florance, vice president of content delivery at Netflix, explained in a statement. "Any ISP that wants to be able to deliver our new formats can do so easily and for free."
As Ryan Lawler points out in TechCrunch, it's a bit ironic to hear a cable company bragging about its network being more than capable of delivering formats like 3D and Super HD. Cable companies have long complained about the strain put on their networks by streaming services like Netflix.
That strain is also part of the cable industry's rationale for imposing caps on broadband usage.
Now here comes Netflix with a way to help relieve some of the bandwidth pressure it's creating on the cable providers' networks and a cable provider is saying it's unnecessary. What's wrong with this picture?
For one, Time Warner's outrage that Netflix is withholding content from its consumers may be just a little disingenuous. If 3D and Super HD content is streamed over Time Warner's network, it would allow the company to collect more money from its data caps. Plugging into Open Connect will channel that money out of the cable provider's coffers.
In addition, improving Netflix service through Open Connect will only increase the streaming service's popularity, already a sore point among cable providers that are seeing their pay-for-TV subscribers migrating to the Internet for their entertainment needs.
Despite its protests, Time Warner appears to be hedging its bets on Open Connect. It's currently in negotiations with Netflix over connecting to the video streamer's network.