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Streaming Video Now Accounts for 70 Percent of Broadband Usage

How Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and Amazon ate the Internet (and terrified cable).

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

You use your Internet connection to do all kinds of things. But you use it for one thing much more than anything else: To stream video and music.

If you’re reading this site (or if you work at a giant TV and broadband provider), the odds are you know that already. But it’s always useful to see it in a chart, so here you go. Here’s the latest breakdown from broadband services company Sandvine of “fixed access” — for the purposes of this piece, read it as “home broadband” — Internet usage during peak evening hours. That big red bar in the middle is the one to focus on. It shows you that “real-time entertainment” — streaming video and audio — account for 70 percent of the Web traffic coming to your house:

Again, it’s not surprising to learn that broadband is moving from “the thing that brings you websites and email” to “the thing that brings you video.” But change over time drives it home: Sandvine says that five years ago, video/audio represented 35 percent of prime-time usage. Now it has doubled, to 70 percent.

Much of the increase comes from YouTube and Netflix, which already accounted for more than half of your broadband usage a couple of years ago and continues to grow. But now those services are joined by relatively new entrants, like Amazon* and Hulu, which barely registered a couple of years ago and now account for nearly 6 percent of usage.

What’s that? You’ve heard that mobile is the future of the Internet and you’d like to see what’s going on there, too? Same story, but different: Video and audio — primarily YouTube — dominate mobile usage, too. But social — basically Facebook and Snapchat — are also big. Video/audio accounts for 41 percent of mobile traffic, and social eats up 22 percent.

* I’ve asked Amazon about Sandvine’s numbers for years, in large part because Netflix has pointed to Sandvine as a reasonable proxy for its command of the streaming video market. And until today, Amazon has never commented on the record about Sandvine’s estimates. Today, though, Amazon’s PR agency has sent a note pointing out that “Amazon now represents one of the top three sources of video traffic in North America, up from rank #8 on Sandvine’s 2014 report.” So there you go.

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