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Update, March 23, 2020 (3:25AM ET): Netflix reduced the quality of its video streams last week after a request from the EU. The switch is meant to reduce network congestion as millions of people are stuck at home.

Now, the firm has revealed that it will offer this same option to interested ISPs in other markets affected by lockdown orders.

“So we will provide relief to ISPs who are dealing with large government-mandated ‘shelter in place’ orders by providing the 25% traffic reduction we’ve started in Europe. For other networks, we’ll stick with our normal procedures — until and unless they experience issues of their own.”

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The firm also sought to clarify what subscribers should expect in affected markets, saying that you’re still getting the resolution you paid for (be it 4K or HD).

“In normal circumstances, we have many (sometimes dozens) of different streams for a single title within each resolution. In Europe, for the next 30 days, within each category we’ve simply removed the highest bandwidth streams,” the streaming giant explained, saying eagle-eyed people might notice a change.

Netflix isn’t the only company to reduce video quality in a bid to ease congestion, as Facebook and Instagram have reportedly followed suit in Europe too. Other companies previously confirmed to reduce video quality in Europe are Amazon Prime Video and YouTube.


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.

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