With coronavirus related lockdowns and shutdowns sweeping Europe and forcing millions to stay at home and go on to the internet for everything from work to entertainment, Netflix said Thursday that it will cut its streaming bit rates across Europe for 30 days.
The decision could affect the quality of the video users see. A bitrate is the number of bits transmitted per second. The higher the bitrate, the better the quality
In a statement the world's largest streaming service said, "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.”
EU Internal Market and Services Commissioner Thierry Brown tweeted Wednesday that he spoke with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to look into different options to reduce internet traffic, including switching video users from high definition to standard definition during peak usage hours.
“To beat #COVID19, we #StayAtHome," Breton said. "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.”
FOX Business reached out to Netflix's U.S. headquarters about the possibility of a similar change occurring in the United States but Netflix declined to comment. In the past the company has noted it works with internet provides as a matter of course and that it has instituted "adaptive streaming” technology which adjusts the resolution of a video according to available bandwidth.
Netflix stock was up more than 5 percent on the news during Thursday's trading session.
Netflix's bit rate reduction comes at a time when media consumption is at all-time highs. Nielsen estimates that people staying home "can lead to almost a 60% increase in the amount of content we watch in some cases and potentially more depending on the reasons". According to Nielsen's most recent Total Audience report, Americans are already spending just shy of 12 hours each day with media platforms.
Netflix implemented an "open connect" program back in 2011 to keep streaming steady in low bandwidth areas.