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Updated: Netflix Restores Service After Outage

Netflix suffered a technical problem Tuesday evening that disabled its website and Internet video streaming service for about two and a half hours.

Sometime around 8 p.m. ET Tuesday, the Netflix site stopped functioning normally and visitors were instead greeted with this message: "We're sorry, the Netflix website and the ability to instantly watch movies are both temporarily unavailable. However, our shipping centers are continuing to send and receive DVDs so your order is in process as usual."

At approximately 10:30 p.m. ET, Netflix restored access to the site, including subscribers' DVD queues, as well as the video streaming service. However, Roku set-top boxes were still unable to access Netflix as of 11 p.m. ET, displaying this message: "Netflix services experienced an internal error."

Netflix vice president of corporate communications Steve Swasey, reached via e-mail Tuesday, said he did not yet have information about what caused the outage.

As of the end of 2010, Netflix had about 20 million customers.

Last June, some users of the Roku Internet set-top had trouble accessing Netflix's service, an issue the companies chalked up to "unprecedented usage."

Netflix has been steadily amassing TV content, in a bolder challenge to traditional pay-TV networks. Last week, it announced a deal with independent studio Media Rights Capital to acquire the rights to a minimum of 26 episodes of House of Cards, an adaptation of a BBC miniseries, set to debut on the Internet streaming service in late 2012.

But some content owners are pulling back from Netflix. Showtime Networks on Tuesday said that, as of this summer, it will no longer provide episodes of currently airing series, such as Dexter and Californication, to Netflix for Internet streaming access.

According to an estimate last fall by network-management equipment vendor Sandvine, Netflix represents more than 20% of downstream Internet traffic during peak times in the U.S. and is heaviest in the primetime hours of 8 to 10 p.m.