Netflix has agreed to reduce the default quality of its video in Canada, following an appeal by the Canadian Network Operators Consortium, Canadian Communication Systems Alliance, and Independent Telecommunications Providers Association. Last week, the coalition of independent internet and telecom service provider advocates, sent a letter to Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and other OTT video providers urging them to adjust offered video bitrates to 1080p or lower to better serve Canadians during the high demand for residential internet. The three organizations say collectively OTT video has contributed to a 20 to 30% increase in aggregate internet transit over the last seven to 10 days. “This will definitely help the independent members in managing increasing capacity issues as we’ve seen a dramatic spike in traffic during COVID-19,” Jeff Brownlee, Executive Director, Canadian Network Operators Consortium, told Broadcast Dialogue in an email. “Video is by far the largest consumer of bandwidth and with Netflix striving for a 25% reduction, it will free up much-needed bandwidth to keep Canada connected during this crisis.”
MX Player, owned by Indian media conglomerate Times Internet, is launching its video OTT service in Canada and six other countries including the U.S., UK, Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Nepal. Streaming premium content for free in multiple languages, the ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) platform hosts a repository of over 10,000 hours of licensed content from content creators and partner platforms like FilmRise, Shoreline, Screen Media, Sonar Entertainment and New Films International. MX Player is already one of India’s leading OTT services with over 175 million MAUs in its home market alone.
Houseparty is now the most downloaded free app in the iOS store in Canada, the UK and New Zealand, and in sixth place in the U.S. where Zoom is number one, as those sheltering-in-place look to socialize virtually. The Houseparty app, which allows users to chat with up to eight people at a time, reshuffles the screen when people enter or leave the chat. According to App Annie, Houseparty has seen user growth from 130,000 downloads a week in February to about 2 million last week. A more laid back version of the Zoom video-conferencing app, which can support up to 100 meeting attendees in its free offering and 1,000 in its paid tier, Houseparty was acquired last June by Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite.
Sportsnet hosted its inaugural Digital Watch Party on Mar. 31. Airing on Sportsnet’s Facebook and YouTube channels, the select Raptors Rewind and NHL Rewind broadcasts bring fans together online to chat with Sportsnet hosts and celebrity guests, while reliving memorable moments from the Toronto Raptors’ 2019 championship run and legendary NHL games from the past two decades. Hosted by Danielle Michaud, Faizal Khamisa, and Donnovan Bennett, the inaugural Watch Party was joined by Raptors legends JYD (Jerome Williams), Alvin Williams, Matt Bonner, Popeye Jones, Tracy Murray and Leo Rautins.
In Conversation with Ron MacLean – a new 20 to 30-minute virtual roundtable show available on Sportsnet’s Facebook and YouTube channels and sportsnet.ca – made its debut Wednesday night. Featuring guests like Wayne Gretzky, Hayley Wickenheiser, and Peter Mansbridge, the Hockey Night in Canada host will have in-depth discussions with notable Canadians every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT. In Conversation with Ron MacLean will also be available to listeners across the Sportsnet Radio network following the online edition. Guests for upcoming episodes will be announced on Sportsnet’s Twitter account.
TIFF and Crave have announced more virtual Stay-at-Home Cinema events, following the inaugural Q&A and screening Mar. 27, that saw TIFF Artistic Director and Co-Head Cameron Bailey joined by Mandy Patinkin via Instagram Live, followed by a screening of The Princess Pride. On Apr. 1, Bailey was joined by actor/director Sarah Polley before a screening of her 2007 film, Away from Her on Crave. On Apr. 3, Catherine O’Hara and Bo Welch join Bailey in a virtual Q&A, followed by Beetlejuice on Crave. O’Hara portrayed Delia in the film, while Welch is an award-winning production designer who worked on Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and Men in Black.
MUCH Studios creators have produced new content stressing the importance of maintaining connections with online communities amidst COVID-19. Creators including YouTwoTV, Dan Rodo, Joey Kidney, Alayna Joy, Vancouver-based model Melissa Merk, and travel and lifestyle YouTuber Istiani Bestari, who have produced videos ranging from self-quarantine ideas and workout classes, to stress lowering tips and relaxation activities.