Netflix blames Amazon for streaming video blackout

Many video viewers were kept in the dark on Christmas Eve, Netflix says.

Paul Demery

A glitch at Amazon Web Services kept many video viewers in the dark on Christmas Eve, Netflix Inc. says.

“An outage impacting many, but not all devices that can stream from Netflix, started at about 12:30 p.m. Pacific time on Monday, Dec. 24, as a result of an outage on Amazon Web Services,” says a spokesman for Netflix, No. 9 in the Internet Retailer Top 500.

Amazon Web Services, a unit of Amazon.com Inc., provides “cloud” or Internet-based technology for running web applications and storing data. Netflix uses Amazon Web Services to support the streaming of videos via the web to subscribers’ computer screens or Internet-enabled television sets. Amazon is No. 1 in the Top 500.

Netflix, which did not specify which types of devices were affected by the outage, worked with Amazon to address the problem throughout the day on Dec. 24, returning streaming service to “the majority of our members” by late Christmas Eve, the Netflix spokesman says. “We are investigating the cause and will do what we can to prevent reoccurrence,” he adds.

On its web site for reporting the status of its service, Amazon Web Services attributed the outage to a problem with its Elastic Load Balancing service, which is designed to regulate the volume of traffic in web applications, at its Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud facility in Northern Virginia. The company, which has reported similar problems at that facility at least three other times this year, said service was back in full operation by mid-day Dec. 25.

"We have been heads down ensuring customers are operating smoothly and will be publishing a full summary of the event in the coming days," a spokesman for Amazon Web Services says.

The spokesman says the web services glitch didn't "significantly" impact Amazon's own video streaming, which competes with Netflix through its Amazon Instant Video service, because it did not need the Elastic Load Balancing service during the outage period. Amazon bundles its Instant Video with the Amazon Prime expedited delivery service.

The Dec. 24 outage also impacted the online operations of Heroku, a company that uses Amazon Web Services to support its own cloud-based computing services to e-commerce companies, and Scope, which uses Amazon Web Services to support its social networking app. Heroku and Scope said they were addressing the outage through Twitter and web site communications with users. A spokeswoman for Heroku declined further comment; Scope did not immediate return a call for comment.


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