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Netflix and YouTube to Start Cutting Video Quality in Europe

Because of an "unprecedented usage" of the Internet caused by coronavirus-related quarantines

Netflix, photo via YTCount on Unsplash
Netflix, photo via YTCount on Unsplash
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Netflix and YouTube have announced they will reduce streaming quality in Europe for at least 30 days. A decreased bitrate on video streams will allegedly help prevent the internet from breaking, as the coronavirus pandemic has led to “unprecedented usage” of the internet, reports CNN.

Update – March 21st: Amazon and Apple are also throttling back their bitrates in Europe.

According to statement from a Netflix spokesperson, the decrease in bitrate may mean some users see “a reduction in perceptible video quality” while other users notice no change at all. “We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members,” the spokesperson said.

Speaking to CNN, a spokesperson for Google, which owns YouTube, said, “We will continue working with member state governments and network operators to minimize stress on the system, while also delivering a good user experience.”

This decision arrives shortly after EU officials urged Netflix and individual users alike to nix HD video for the greater good. European Commissioner Thierry Breton sat down with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on both Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the strain that video streaming has been placing on networks. In a statement, Brton said that streaming platforms, telecom operators, and users “all have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet during the battle against the virus propagation.”

According to a 2019 report, over 60% of data delivered from internet providers to consumers is from videos and Netflix is responsible for just under 12% of total traffic. By comparison, Google accounts for 12% as well. These are pretty sizable numbers, but rest assured; Telecom and Verizon have both said they’re prepared to handle the increase in traffic that comes from coronavirus precautions, AKA educational lectures, concert livestreams, and excessive video chatting.

It’s safe to say daily life is drastically changing in Europe and elsewhere in the wake of COVID-19’s worldwide spread. Coronavirus may be crippling the entertainment industry, but an increasing number of stars are trying to use their platform to help spread awareness anyway, from Foals’ hand-washing PSA to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s new Shaun of the Dead parody about social distancing.

Chances are a movie or show you’ve watched on Netflix before has featured one of the celebrities who have tested positive for coronavirus, be it actor Idris Elba, Lost star Daniel Dae Kim, NBA All-Star Kevin Durant, Game of Thrones actor Kristofer Hivju, James Bond actress Olga Kurylenko, or Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson.

Stay up to date on all the films, TV shows, festivals, and other productions impacted by coronavirus right here.

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