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More Services Now Limiting Streaming Quality In Europe

Netflix logo on a phone
Credit: Netflix

Europe has recently heard that the European Union has urged Netflix and other streaming services to start limiting the streaming quality to it’s countries in light of more residents staying at home. This emergency limitation is due to millions of people living in Europe self-isolating.

CNN reported that the European Commissioner, Thierry Breton has asked streaming services to switch from the regular high definition that it’s users have become accustomed to, to standard definition. This is sure to reduce the strain on the platform’s servers, with millions more people using the service and increasing traffic, this could help manage the high demand the servers are in at the moment.

Reed Hastings is the CEO of Netflix and from this Tweet from Bretton it seems that they had a productive talk about the short term future of Netflix in Europe.

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So, What Happened With Netflix?

This Tweet was reinforced last week when Netflix agreed to reduce bandwidth in Europe over the next 30 days. This would mean not being able to watch your favorite shows in high definition, but in standard instead.

“Following the discussions between Commissioner Thierry Breton and Reed Hastings — and given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus — Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement to Variety. “We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members.”

I’m not an expert in bitrates and resolutions but this sounds like you will be able to watch your shows and movies in high resolutions, like up to the 4K package Netflix offer. It just might mean that the picture will not be as clear as it will be a lower bit rate, from upwards of 12-bits, to now maybe 8-bit.

Now, more streaming services have agreed with the EU instructions to limit their bandwidth in Europe to help with internet traffic.

What Happened With YouTube?

YouTube are another service that has lowered it’s quality. They are now serving videos on the platform in a standard definition by default. Meaning that they won’t limit the videos to staying at standard definition, but loading up a video will mean it loads in 480p in the settings. You will have to change it manually to 1080 if you want. This could reduce traffic, where some people might forget, won’t care or don’t even know how to change the quality.

A YouTube spokesperson wrote: “People are coming to YouTube to find authoritative news, learning content and make connections during these uncertain times. While we have seen only a few usage peaks, we have measures in place to automatically adjust our system to use less network capacity.

“We are in ongoing conversations with the regulators (including Ofcom), governments and network operators all over Europe, and are making a commitment to temporarily default all traffic in the UK and the EU to standard definition. We will continue our work to minimise stress on the system, while also delivering a good user experience.”

Who Else Have Agreed?

Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Disney+ and Apple have all agreed with the EU’s requests to limit video bitrate and quality across Europe. All of this will hopefully help with alleviating the stress put onto streaming services servers.

Logos of all major streaming services
Credit: Amazon & NBC & Apple & Disney & HBO & CBS & Netflix

Why Is This Happening?

You might be thinking that this isn’t necessary, and that these streaming services should invest in more servers. It doesn’t quite work like that. This is only a short term, temporary situation. Netflix have agreed to limiting it’s streaming quality for 30 days and then reassess the situation, meaning they can’t invest millions to install servers across the world. If they don’t do this, these services could go down all together from the strain. That would be an even darker day indeed.

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