23 MAR 2020
SPECIAL CONTENT

MAJOR OTT SERVICES REDUCE THE QUALITY OF THEIR STREAMS IN EUROPE

Following a European Union’s petition, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney and YouTube have all provisionally agreed to reduce the quality of their video streams in Europe, to ensure the availability of online services.

Following a European Union’s petition, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney and YouTube have all provisionally agreed to reduce the quality of their video streams in Europe, to ensure the availability of online services.

With so many countries on forced lockdowns to fight the spread of the virus, hundreds of millions working from home and even more children out of school, EU officials were concerned about the huge strain on internet bandwidth.

European Commissioner Thierry Breton, who is responsible for the EU internal market, was the first one to talk about this when he tweeted that he had spoken with Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix. “To beat Covid-19, we stay at home. Teleworking and streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain. To secure Internet access for all, let’s #SwitchToStandard definition when HD is not necessary,”  he posted.

Netflix responded by reducing its traffic by 25% in Italy and Spain, which were experiencing the biggest impact. It then extended this to the rest of Europe and the United Kingdom. The service will offer a similar reduction to internet service providers in other regions on request.

Nevertheless, Netflix is maintaining the full range of video resolutions, so whether members paid for ultra-high definition, high definition or standard definition, they should continue to receive that, depending on their device. The company has simply removed the highest bandwidth streams. It says members may still notice “a very slight decrease in quality within each resolution” but they will still get the video quality they paid for.

Amazon Prime Video has already begun the effort to reduce streaming bitrates whilst maintaining a quality streaming experience for their customers. “We are working with local authorities and internet service providers where needed to help mitigate any network congestion,”  the company said.

Disney, which is due to launch its Disney+ service in the United Kingdom and most major European markets on March 24, has agreed to reduce its overall data rate by 25%. At the request of the French government, the companyt has also agreed to delay its launch in the territory until April 7.

“In the coming days, we will be monitoring internet congestion and working closely with internet service providers to further reduce bitrates as necessary to ensure they are not overwhelmed by consumer demand,”  said Kevin Mayer, Chairman of Direct-to-consumer and International at The Walt Disney Company.

Lastly, YouTube expressed: “We are making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the European Union to standard definition by default”. Users will still be able to manually select high definition.