Streaming media content continues to be a major reason for people to use their Internet connections. Unfortunately, this same content also takes up a lot of bandwidth. Between three of the major online streaming services — YouTube, Spotify, and Netflix — which uses up the most home bandwidth?


Streaming Music: Much Less Bandwidth Than Video

Those of you who prefer to stream music from Spotify instead of streaming video are using a much smaller amount of bandwidth compared to any video site. This also applies to streaming music off of YouTube when the “video” in question is simply a static image of a band’s album cover. Although bandwidth rates vary widely depending on the media format and quality, a good rule of thumb is to expect video streaming to require anywhere from 10 to 20 times the bandwidth as audio. The difference is even greater if the video is in HD format.

Spotify itself offers its audio streams in the Vorbis format, and premium subscribers are able to switch to a higher fidelity stream. The normal format is around 160 kbits per second, while the premium stream doubles the resolution to around 320 kbits per second.

Bandwidth Differences Between Netflix and YouTube

In general, YouTube gives its users a wider array of options in video-streaming quality when compared to Netflix. YouTube videos are streamed in resolutions from 240p all the way to full HD: 1080p. You as the user control the resolution of the video and how much bandwidth you are using.

Netflix also provides some measure of video-quality choice for their users, but it recommends that subscribers’ Internet connections are at least 1.5 megabits per second, with 3.0 megabits per second recommended for DVD quality. Obviously, HD quality requires even more bandwidth.

Summing Up

Either YouTube or Netflix can take up more bandwidth than the other, depending on your choice for video-streaming quality. Considering that Netflix has a wider selection of commercial movies in HD format, Netflix takes up the most monthly bandwidth for more users. Both video-streaming services take up much more bandwidth than Spotify or any other music-streaming service. Thankfully, users still hold a lot of control over their own bandwidth usage.