Netflix explains how they reduced the streaming bitrate due to the coronavirus crisis.
Why did Netflix reduce the streaming bitrate?
There are new details on what Netflix is doing to relieve the internet of streaming: The streaming provider no longer provides customers with the maximum possible quality at the respective subscription level. According to Netflix, subscribers “may notice a very slight decrease in quality within each resolution”. Netflix was the first provider to reduce the streaming bitrate for video streaming. This was initially announced for 30 days in Europe.
Netflix also wants to reduce the streaming bitrate in Latin American countries. In a blog post, the service told that they reduced streaming quality only in Italy and Spain. These are both countries that are particularly hard hit by the spread of the coronavirus and have many deaths. The measure was then extended to other European countries.
Netflix: “You get what you pay for”
Netflix claims to sometimes provide dozens of streams for each resolution under normal circumstances. That applies to every title in the Netflix catalog. When reducing the streaming bitrate, Netflix does not provide the maximum possible quality level. This would only be noticed by subscribers who has the highest possible video quality, which is 4K. Nonetheless, Netflix tells its users: “But you still get the video quality you paid for.”
Netflix customers pay more for the subscription if they want higher video quality. In the standard subscription, customers receive all content only in standard resolution. If you want HD resolution, you have to pay more. It becomes even more expensive if the content is to be available in 4K resolution.
Other providers followed
Other providers have already followed Netflix’s step. For example, Disney recently announced that it would reduce the streaming bitrate in Europe when Disney+ started in many European countries (for a test period) on March 24, 2020. At the request of the French government, Disney+ postponed its launch in France for two weeks.
By default, YouTube decided to broadcast videos in SD quality by default. However, users will still be able to set the quality to Full HD or 4K. Amazon reduced the streaming bitrate at Prime Video as well. Apple also reduced the maximum possible resolution on TV+, so its customers no longer receive the content in Full HD or a higher resolution.
EU Commissioner Thierry Breton asked streaming providers to use less bandwidth. European governments fear that increased use of entertainment services may overwhelm the networks.