How Many Gigs of Data Do You Need to Watch Streaming Movies and TV Shows?

December 26, 2019 – 11:27 am

Streaming MediaThis is one of the most common questions I get about streaming media, right up there with “Do I need a player for every TV?” and “Can I cancel my cable service if I get a Roku/Amazon Fire TV/Apple TV/Google Chromecast?” And I’ve been meaning to answer it but haven’t gotten around to it. Until now, it’s not something I’ve had to worry about personally since I currently have Verizon FIOS Internet service, which has no data caps. (I know, I know… I shouldn’t be thinking of myself only!)

But I’m in the process of switching providers (more on that to come) and my new one does have a threshold of 250GB per month, which means I’ve finally looked it up so I can share the info with you. I’m using Netflix as a reference because a) they have very specific info on their site and b) I expect they’re a good proxy for other similar services.

The short version is that it depends on the quality of the content you’re streaming. From their Help page:

“Watching movies or TV shows on Netflix uses about 1 GB of data per hour for each stream of standard definition video, and up to 3 GB per hour for each stream of HD video.”

Note that these numbers apply whether you’re streaming the show to your TV, computer, or mobile device.

I usually stream in standard definition anyway because a) it costs less when renting content from Amazon, which I use as often as Netflix and b) I honestly can’t see enough of a difference between SD and HD to make the extra cost worth my while.

Also, while I was looking this up, I came across another article about bandwidth usage for all sorts of online activities, including email, social media, and gaming. It also includes an important reminder that uploading content to the Internet uses up data as well.


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  • avatar Is it "illegal" to watch streamed movies? | Yahoo Answers
    • I'm not sure if Comcast is monitoring or taking action against customers who use unauthorized streaming sites, but my guess is that it's at least monitoring them and compiling data. It has a vested interest in reducing customers' usage of such sites, because all that video downloading and streaming requires bandwidth that costs Comcast money to provide.
      In answer to the question of whether it's illegal to watch streamed movies, the answer (with respect to United States law at least) is "yes", assuming you're specifically referring to watching them as they're streamed from sites that ar…