YouTube, Netflix scale back to SD in Europe as coronavirus clogs networks

YouTube cell phone
As people stay inside during the coronavirus outbreak, streaming is seeing an uptick not only for entertainment, but for educational and work-related reasons as well. (Pixabay)

YouTube and Netflix have both agreed to scale back to standard definition in Europe as the coronavirus crisis pushes networks to the brink.

YouTube followed Netflix in downgrading video quality at the request of European Commissioner Thierry Breton.

“We are making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default,” YouTube said in a statement obtained by Reuters.

Netflix on Thursday said it would cut back on streaming bit rates for about a month.

RELATED: Netflix asked to curb HD video to ease pressure on networks in Europe

“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 told 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.”

Amazon Prime Video also said it will scale back its video streams.

“We support the need for careful management of telecom services to ensure they can handle the increased internet demand, with so many people now at home full-time due to Covid-19. Prime Video is working with local authorities and internet service providers where needed to help mitigate any network congestion, including in Europe, where we’ve already begun the effort to reduce streaming bitrates while maintaining a quality streaming experience for our customers," the company said in a statement obtained by the Guardian.

As people stay inside during the coronavirus outbreak, streaming is seeing an uptick not only for entertainment, but for educational and work-related reasons as well. Video technology company Wurl has been tracking streaming video increases across different countries. The firm found that between March 14 and 15, streaming time rose 44% in Austria, 17% in Canada, 12% in Switzerland, 32% in Germany, 42% in Spain, 14% in France and 14% in Great Britain.

“During the last three days alone, our network technology has shown a 20-40% increase in streaming viewership around the world,” said Wurl CEO Sean Doherty on Tuesday. His company is tracking the increases across 100 million devices using a variety of services.

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