In response to urging from a European Union official, Netflix has agreed to reduce its streaming bit rates across Europe for 30 days.
The move — using technology to ensure that standard-definition rather than high-definition transmission is employed as much as possible — is meant to help reduce the already serious strain on internet networks around the world (as reported by The New York Times), as huge numbers of people are now working, as well as consuming news and entertainment, from home.
The streaming service’s decision came out of discussions between Netfix CEO Reed Hastings and EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton.
Following the discussions, “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,” the company said in a statement sent to press. “We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members.”
According to Netflix, “streaming TV shows or movies on its service uses about 1 gigabyte of data per hour for each stream of standard-definition video, compared with up to 3 GB per hour for each stream of HD video,” reports Variety.
Netflix has for years now already been using “an adaptive streaming tool that automatically adjusts the quality of streaming video based on accessible bandwidth,” explains The Verge. The company, “which partners with internet service providers around the world on network management, will determine what quality of stream is best for the viewer in an effort to ensure buffering doesn’t occur. If bandwidth is low, videos will automatically stream at a lower resolution. But if everyone is running at higher speeds and trying to share those pipes, don’t expect HD or 4K streaming.”
At least for the present, Netflix’s accelerated bandwidth reduction efforts apply only in Europe.
Netflix reported 51.8 million paid subscribers in the EMEA region as of the end of last year (it doesn’t break out Europe) — representing nearly a third (31%) of its total global paid subscribers.