Measurement Study of Netflix, Hulu, and a Tale of Three CDNs

Vijay K. Adhikari, Yang Guo, Fang Hao, Volker Hilt, Zhi Li Zhang, Matteo Varvello, Moritz Steiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Netflix and Hulu are leading Over-the-Top (OTT) content service providers in the US and Canada. Netflix alone accounts for 29.7% of the peak downstream traffic in the US in 2011. Understanding the system architectures and performance of Netflix and Hulu can shed light on the design of such large-scale video streaming platforms, and help improving the design of future systems. In this paper, we perform extensive measurement study to uncover their architectures and service strategies. Netflix and Hulu bear many similarities. Both Netflix and Hulu video streaming platforms rely heavily on the third-party infrastructures, with Netflix migrating that majority of its functions to the Amazon cloud, while Hulu hosts its services out of Akamai. Both service providers employ the same set of three content distribution networks (CDNs) in delivering the video contents. Using active measurement study, we dissect several key aspects of OTT streaming platforms of Netflix and Hulu, e.g., employed streaming protocols, CDN selection strategy, user experience reporting, etc. We discover that both platforms assign the CDN to a video request without considering the network conditions and optimizing the user-perceived video quality. We further conduct the performance measurement studies of the three CDNs employed by Netflix and Hulu. We show that the available bandwidths on all three CDNs vary significantly over the time and over the geographic locations. We propose a measurement-based adaptive CDN selection strategy and a multiple-CDN-based video delivery strategy that can significantly increase users' average available bandwidth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6915771
Pages (from-to)1984-1997
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work of V. K. Adhikari and Z.-L. Zhang was supported in part by the US NSF under Grant CNS-1017647 and CNS-1117536, the DTRA under Grant HDTRA1-09-1-0050, and the DoD ARO MURI under Award W911NF-12-1-0385. Part of this work was done while the V. K. Adhikari was a summer intern at Alcatel-Lucent, Bell Labs, Holmdel, NJ, USA.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 IEEE.


  • CDN selection strategy
  • Hulu
  • Netflix
  • Over-the-Top (OTT) content service
  • content distribution networks (CDN)
  • video streaming


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