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Netflix to lower streaming quality in Europe to reduce internet traffic

Netflix to lower streaming quality in Europe to reduce internet traffic
(Image credit: Sky)

Netflix has announced it will reduce the video quality of its streams in Europe for the next 30 days to help ease internet traffic during the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier, the EU commissioner revealed he had spoken to Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, about the issue, while also calling on people to switch to SD rather than HD or 4K Netflix streams to save bandwidth.

Now, as revealed by the BBC, Netflix has announced it will make the decision itself, reducing the quality of streams to save on data. "We estimate this will reduce Netflix traffic by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members," the company said.

The statement continues: "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 bitrates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days."

With millions of us being asked to stay indoors and self-isolate, the EU was worried that vital data might stop flowing: "Teleworking and streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain," said Breton.

The streaming giant had pointed out that it already used 'adaptive bit rate' technology to tailor the quality of video streams to network capacity, and keep a lid on bandwidth consumption - and of course users can make their own adjustments in  the settings. 

But now Netflix has done the sensible thing, and made the change at the server end, meaning we may all have to make do without 4K Netflix for a while.

  • ruffian
    As if we’re not going to be miserable enough we now have to suffer reduced quality. Maybe my subscription will have to go on hold until the summer. Annoyingly, the broadband companies all said (earlier this week) that they can cope with the extra demand!
    Reply
  • no-name-123
    make sure that you get a reduction in your monthly charge, you paid for HD so you should get that
    Reply
  • simonali
    It'll still look better than Amazon Prime anyway, I expect!

    Why only Europe? It would be better to suspend the 4K service and reduce everyone's sub to the 1080 price surely?
    Reply
  • no-name-123
    possibly because it is easier to get away with in Europe
    Reply
  • Mechanic57
    Just checked in with Netflix support and they are not processing any refunds during this bandwidth reduction period. I believe if enough complain and possibly threaten to cancel subscriptions they may change their minds.
    Reply
  • no-name-123
    Mechanic57

    some sort of reduction in monthly cost is more realistic to reflect the reduced service. Try contacting a high profile consumer show, so that all the viewers will get to hear about it and embarras netflix into doing the right thing. This is like paying for a blu-ray but being sent a DVD
    Reply
  • anort3
    Posted this in the youtube article as well but the datacenters are all here in the US. There are trans Atlantic and trans Pacific fiber cables that carry the load. They have a huge but limited bandwidth. Under normal circumstances they can handle the traffic but if everyone in Europe is streaming HD at the same time....it just too much for the existing framework to handle at once. And they have to keep critical infrastructure open. Banking / medical etc. So something has to be sacrificed to ensure it works for everyone.
    Reply
  • Minkey1
    Mechanic57 said:
    Just checked in with Netflix support and they are not processing any refunds during this bandwidth reduction period. I believe if enough complain and possibly threaten to cancel subscriptions they may change their minds.

    Had a major fall out with them. I'm in the UK, on their 4K/4 screens plan. Seeing reports of "still 4K, but PQ may suffer" (🤔) I went on their Live Chat. When I asked about rebates t'lass got all shirty and said I'd still got the 4 screens element so what was I bothered about and I "couldn't opt out".

    I said I could opt out of Netflix and cancel - and perhaps wrongly, ended the Chat session.

    Next thing, and before I'd a chance to ponder what to do, I got an email saying they'd cancelled my subscription!

    Got Reed Hastings email and complained and got a response from Corporate Escalations saying they were looking into it.

    As it happens, there's little on NF to interest us at the minute and we're using Prime more. Between subscriptions and trials I've got Prime, NF, Now, Spotify, and Tidal plus occasional purchases/rents from GP so this is an opportunity to consolidate, depending on what NF Corporate say.

    It feels like sharp practice to me. Especially given BT's response saying there's plenty of capacity in the UK, even allowing for home working.

    First world problems I know. But still ☹️
    Reply
  • no-name-123
    minkey1 it is a sharp practice. BT that run the network are best placed to know their network. Lowering the quality but not the cost is proffiteering
    Reply
  • Minkey1
    no-name-123 said:
    minkey1 it is a sharp practice. BT that run the network are best placed to know their network. Lowering the quality but not the cost is proffiteering
    I agree. I don't think this is a good look for them. I'm prepared to do my bit but so should they. And I've read they are charged for the bandwidth so they'll see a saving AND keep *their* prices unaltered.

    I realise they are dominant but haven't seen any similar announcement from any other provider.

    Fortunately, we have the ultimate response.
    Reply