Update, May 15, 2020 (11:00 AM ET): Netflix is now supporting higher video streaming quality once again in at least parts of Europe. FlatPanelsHD.com reports that Netflix customers in Denmark, Norway, Germany, and other markets are now able to stream movies and TV shows at 4K HDR at up to a 15Mb/s bitrate, along with normal bitrates for HD content. Netflix confirmed to the site that it is working with European ISPs to increase streaming quality, saying that it added four times its normal streaming capacity in April.
Original article, March 19, 2020 (3:44PM ET): As the coronavirus outbreak has spread throughout Europe, many more people are being forced to stay at home. So what do you do when you are stuck inside with an internet connection? You start streaming Netflix, of course. That prospect has led to some concern that the internet infrastructure might not hold up with all that Netflix activity. Thankfully, that problem seems to have been resolved, at least for the next month.
The EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton posted on Twitter earlier this week that he has had discussions with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on the matter. Specifically, Breton requested to Hastings that Netflix switch its streams in Europe to SD video quality and resolution rather than the more popular HD resolution. Netflix’s own website states that each of its SD streams use about 1GB of data per hour. Each of its HD streams use 3GB of data per hour. Breton feels that all those folks stuck at home could overwhelm the internet, even as more people are using it to work from their house.
It looks like Netflix is going to make some changes to keep the internet from breaking during this crisis. In a statement to Variety, the company said it will reduce its bit rates to Europe for the next 30 days. Netflix claims this move will cut the amount of internet traffic it used in Europe by 25%. There’s no word yet on how this move will affect the video quality of Netflix’s streams for European subscribers.
While that may solve the problems in Europe’s internet infrastructure, it’s possible that more use of Netflix in the US and other parts of the world could cause similar issues. Indeed, the streaming service already takes up over 12% of worldwide download traffic, according to a report from the research firm Sandvine.