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Streaming video quality cuts in Europe, and more tech news today

YouTube and Netflix say no more 4K in Europe, but 2K is fine, right? What about the US?

Published onMarch 20, 2020

The YouTube logo as of 2019.

Your tech digest, by way of the DGiT Daily newsletter, for Friday, March 20. 

1. Coming to you soon: lower quality everything?

The YouTube logo as of 2019.

YouTube has joined Netflix in reducing video quality in Europe, and that might just be the start of things to come.

  • Reuters reports YouTube is dropping the quality of its videos in Europe, just as Netflix did overnight, after a request from EU industry chief Thierry Breton.
  • Breton initially urged streaming platforms to cut the quality of their videos to prevent internet issues, and the reports are that he spoke directly to YouTube and Google bosses: “The move came after Breton spoke to Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. It said so far it had only seen a few usage peaks but decided to act to minimize stress on the system.
  • “We are making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default,” said YouTube in a statement.
  • And while we do know what Netflix has done more specifically by attempting to lower its network traffic by 25 percent, we don’t know exactly what YouTube’s goals are other than to reduce quality of its streams.
  • Standard Netflix HD streaming uses about 3GB of data/hour, dropping to 1GB/hr for SD.
  • On YouTube, I can still select 4K options on 4K streams for now and get 4K quality, although that may change within a short period.
  • Meanwhile, France has also asked Disney to delay the launch of Disney+ to ease possible congestion: it was meant to launch on March 24, 2020.

Money saving!:

  • It’s worth remembering that the likes of Netflix and YouTube won’t really mind this at all: dropping data quality (with a handy excuse) saves it money on streaming bandwidth costs, which are huge percentages of its business outlay. Will other regions or countries like the US adopt similar requests to big data players?
  • You can take a look at traffic trends of Germany, Sweden, and at a more granular city-level in, Amsterdam, for example. And yes, there is a noticeable uptick, but not a significant spike, although my understanding of capacity and limits is only rudimentary.
  • More significantly, will my go-to, lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to, be impacted?
  • Other working-from-home streaming impacts on Netflix, Spotify, and Twitch, below.

Update: Amazon Prime Video is also joining in, pledging to reduce its own streaming quality to help make more money with internet traffic issues.

2. Deal: Google Stadia Premiere Edition for just $99 (save $30) – Stadia controller and a Google Chromecast Ultra in the package, and a couple of games for free. First Google Stadia discount, just in time for Doom Eternal out today. (Android Authority).

3. Dish is letting the major US carriers borrow spectrum during quarantine data crunch (The Verge).

4. Curiously though, music streaming may actually be falling because of coronavirus (Quartz). Possible reasons: self-isolation, mood, less people active, restaurants/bars not streaming… is Spotify a work tool rather than a home tool? Interesting.

5. Also you don’t play music while listening to streamers. Lo and behold, game streaming audiences are up!: Twitch’s viewership going up 10% and YouTube Gaming’s by 15% (GeekWire).

6. Apple limits online iPhone purchases to two per person amid coronavirus (Reuters).

7. Nokia 8.3 5G announced alongside new Nokia lineup including Nokia 5.3, Nokia 1.3, and Nokia 5310 (Android Authority).

8. Best home gym and fitness equipment: While AA is a tech site, you should see the guy that wrote this (Android Authority).

9. Microsoft’s new ‘DirectX 12 Ultimate’ is an attempt to ‘future-proof’ graphics hardware and join PC and Xbox Series X (PC Gamer).

10. Why we don’t name diseases after places anymore (LifeHacker).

11. Every concert you can live stream on March 20, 2020: wow, there’s loooads, including Ultra Music Festival from 5pm ET. (CNET).

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