Netflix agreed to temporarily reduce bandwidth used by its streaming service in Europe, saying it will cut video bit rates for the next 30 days at the behest of the European Union to ease the load on internet networks in the region.
The move came after EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton, in discussions with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings over the last two days, urged the company the company switch to standard-definition video to ease congestion on networks during the coronavirus pandemic. The concern is that HD streaming video would swamp broadband networks as millions of quarantined people are working remotely.
“Following the discussions between Commissioner Thierry Breton and Reed Hastings — and given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus — Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement to Variety. “We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members.”
Netflix didn’t specify exactly how it would reduce the amount of bandwidth consumed in Europe, or how that would affect video quality for customers.
According to the company, streaming TV shows or movies on its service uses about 1 gigabyte of data per hour for each stream of standard-definition video, compared with up to 3 GB per hour for each stream of HD video.
For now, Netflix’s decision to throttle back video applies only in Europe, not in the U.S. or other territories.
In Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Netflix reported 51.8 million paid subscribers as of the end of 2019, representing 31% of its worldwide customer base.