How much data does streaming a TV show or film use?

Watching ultra-high definition content can double the amount of data consumed through streaming services – and that could mean extra costs for consumers.

Show Data Consumption

The cost of streaming your favourite shows in UHD

Streaming ultra-high definition (UHD) television programmes is tipped as the ‘next big thing’ when it comes to how we enjoy our favourite films and TV shows.

Today, the availability of UHD content is limited, but it could hit the mainstream within 2-3 years. That’s great news for picture quality – but let’s remember that the widespread adoption of this technology could have a significant impact on the cost of broadband deals.

That’s because UHD uses more data. And streaming data costs money.

Streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu are beginning to offer UHD content. With these services already accounting for 20% of the UK’s bandwidth usage and as much as 50% in the US, the extra data required for higher resolution content would see that figure skyrocket.

Our graphic (above) highlights how significant a change this is. For example, it could take over 350 GB more data to stream Friends in UHD (623 GB) than in HD (266 GB) – more than double the amount of data. In other words, you could watch all 10 series from beginning to end twice in HD and still consume less data than watching them once in UHD.

Today, the availability of UHD content is limited, but our broadband experts estimate that it could hit the mainstream within 2-3 years.

One possible consequence of the introduction of UHD is that the streaming services could pay a premium to ISPs for this bandwidth usage, which would feed through to higher costs for consumers.

This increase in data consumption may also lead to ISPs offering more expensive, UHD-specific bundles, or even bumping up prices for consumers across the board as they look to pass on the increase in wholesale costs.

Certainly something to keep an eye on! Limited is an appointed representative of Financial Group Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA FRN 303190). Financial Group Limited, registered in England No. 3157344. Registered Office: Moneysupermarket House, St. David's Park, Ewloe, CH5 3UZ. Telephone 01244 665700