A host of major streaming services have joined Netflix and YouTube in temporarily lowering their bitrate for the European market.
The move to reduce bitrate quality to standard definition was announced over the weekend for Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, Amazon Prime Video and Facebook.
The move comes after European Union officials personally contacted high-ranking executives to American streaming services operating in their region and asked them to lighten the load on their networks. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing people to work and school from home all over the world, regulators fear that broadband network capacities will buckle under the stress of video streaming.
Netflix has said that its reduction in bitrate will reduce its traffic load in Europe by 25%.
“We support the need for careful management of telecom services to ensure they can handle the increased internet demand with so many people now at home full-time due to Covid-19,” a a Netflix spokesperson told The Guardian. “Prime Video is working with local authorities and internet service providers where needed to help mitigate any network congestion.”
So far, none of the major streaming services has announced a similar adjustment for the U.S. market.
In both the U.S. and the UK, lobbying groups for the major telecoms have signaled that their constituencies’ networks were up to the task.
”At this stage, new traffic patterns are being effectively handled by engineers as per standard network operations," Lise Fuhr, director general of the European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association, said in a statement. "We support the European Commission's effort to ensure that national governments and national regulators have all the tools they need to keep networks strong across the continent.”
For its part, Disney Plus is set to launch in Europe on Tuesday (March 24). Disney said it will proceed with its plans to debut the SVOD service in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria and Switzerland. But it will be delayed in France until April 7 at the behest of the French government.