How Much Speed Is Needed to Watch Shows on the Internet?

By Kay Bosworth

Watch movies and TV shows on the Internet.
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You no longer need to go to the theater to see a movie or turn on your TV set to watch a show. Entertainment opportunities follow you through Internet connections on our computers. The Internet allows viewers to download or stream movies and TV shows from multiple sources. A download is simply a copy of a file while a stream is data sent from a server to your computer for one-time viewing.


Popular entertainment providers have different requirements. Hulu, for instance, provides videos streaming at 480 Kbps to 1000 Kbps and requires a broadband Internet connection with a download speed of at least 1 Mbps for standard definition shows and 3 Mbps for high definition videos. Slower download speeds and inconsistent wireless connections interfere with smooth playback and can cause the picture to "stutter." At Netflix, movies are streamed, not downloaded, and are always available with no waiting. Netflix analyzes the speed of your Internet connection and balances a quick start together with the best possible video quality. The faster the Internet connection, the better the video performance

Speed Test

To find out if your downstream bandwidth speed is adequate to watch shows on your computer, test your speed at Speedtest. Click the "Begin Test" button, and when the test stops, your download speed will be shown in the "Download" box.


DSL provides Internet connections through telephone wires and can provide for speeds of 5 Mbps necessary for high quality streaming content. Cable Internet also provides residential service with download speeds of between 4 and 6 Mbps necessary to display shows efficently through a computer. Several cable providers offer packages with higher download speeds, up to 16 Mbps, but at extra cost. Satellite Internet is an option, especially in areas where DSL and cable are not available. Satellite can provide speeds up to 5 Mbps. Fiber-optics offer the fastest speed but the service is more expensive than others. Dial-up connection speeds are not as fast as other options, but some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are offering faster dial-up access that may be adequate for watching shows over the Internet.

Speed Problems

If you have problems viewing shows on your computer, check your speed with Speedtest and then contact your ISP to see what speed you should be getting under your plan.