People around the world are being asked to stay at home for a while in order to combat the spreading of the novel coronavirus, which means that streaming services like Netflix are getting even more traffic than usual. An abundance of video streaming taking place at the same time could lead to major Internet outages and slowdowns, and that concern was brought to Netflix this week by the European Union. The folks at Netflix are responding by reducing its streaming bit rates around Europe.
"Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days," a spokeperson for Netflix said in a statement to The Verge. "We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members."
Slowing down bit rates will cause the picture quality of the content to be slightly lower than usual, but not by much. This will, however, allow the Internet throughout Europe to continue functioning normally, which is much more important than having the perfect picture when you're binging The Witcher.
This issue was brought to the attention of the public this week when European internal market commissioner Thierry Breton spoke with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and requested that the users switch to standard definition streams throughout the ongoing crisis.
Teleworking & streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain.
To secure Internet access for all, let’s #SwitchToStandard definition when HD is not necessary.— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) March 18, 2020
"Important phone conversation with Reed Hasting, CEO of Netflix," Breton wrote in a Tweet. "To beat COVID-19, we stay at home. Teleworking & streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain. To secure Internet access for all, let's switch to standard definition when HD is not necessary."
Netflix hasn't yet announced whether or not there will be any reduction of bit rates in the United States.