On a normal weeknight, Netflix accounts for almost a third of all Internet traffic entering North American homes. That’s more than YouTube, Hulu, Amazon.com, HBO Go, iTunes, and BitTorrent combined. Traffic to Netflix usually peaks at around 10.00pm in each time zone, at which point a chart of Internet consumption looks like a python that swallowed a cow. By midnight Pacific time, streaming volume falls off dramatically.
As prime time wound down on 31 January, though, there was an unusual amount of tension at Netflix. That was the night the company premièred House of Cards, its political thriller set in Washington. Before midnight about 40 engineers gathered in a conference room at Netflix’s headquarters. They sat before a collection of wall-mounted monitors that displayed the status of Netflix’s computing systems. On the conference table, a few dozen laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other devices had the Netflix app loaded and ready to stream.
When the clocks hit 12.00am, the entire season of House of Cards started appearing on the devices, as well as in the recommendation lists of millions of customers chosen by an algorithm. The opening scene, a dog getting run over by an SUV, came and went. At 12.15am, around the time Kevin Spacey’s character says
I’m livid, everything was working fine.
That’s when the champagne comes, says Yury Izrailevsky, the vice president in charge of cloud computing at Netflix, which has a history of self-inflicted catastrophes. Izrailevsky stayed until the wee hours of the morning—just in case—as thousands of customers binge-watched the show. The midnight ritual repeated itself on 19 April, when Netflix premièred its werewolf horror series Hemlock Grove, and will again on 26 May, when its revival of Arrested Development goes live — via redwolf.newsvine.com