Netflix has announced it will cut the bit rate of all streams for European customers for the next 30 days. The measures are to help ease the strain additional traffic is placing on internet service providers as more people are at home watching content in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the BBC, Netflix said lowering the picture quality “would reduce Netflix data consumption by 25%.”
Capping users from streaming video at the highest quality means that some people won’t technically be receiving the service they pay for as Netflix offers a higher priced tier for the highest definition content. It means that anyone trying to stream in 4K or HD won’t be able to until normal service is resumed.
Netflix partners with many ISPs given its huge reach across the globe and the effects the service’s use has on the rest of providers’ networks.
The announcement came after a conversation between EU Commissioner Thierry Breton and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, shown in a tweet from Breton:
Teleworking & 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.
— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton)
March 18, 2020
His tweet called for people to switch to standard definition (SD) streams rather than high definition (HD). It was then presumably decided that Netflix would enforce this rule technologically as no one will abide by the suggestion (or see it).
Contrary to the gist of these reports, tech reporter Saqib Shah at S&P Global Market Intelligence tweeted the below comment form a Netflix spokesperson that claims that a change in bitrate won’t actually affect the quality of stream that customers have paid for.
“but at the lowest bitrate possible. And, clearly, reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe – which is what we are doing – means reducing the amount of bandwidth that Netflix uses by 25%.” 2/2
— Saqib Shah (@eightiethmnt)
March 19, 2020