Netflix to scale down European network traffic after EU pressure

Illustration picture shows logo of the US Online Streaming company Netflix logo displayed on smart phone screen, Dresden, Germany, 25 March 2019. [EPA-EFE/FILIP SINGER]

The online streaming giant Netflix has pledged to lower the quality of its videos in a bid to reduce traffic on European networks by 25%. The aim is to preserve the smooth operation of the internet amid an increase in usage during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The changes mean that Netflix will now take into account the most appropriate streaming  quality for users, aiming to avoid buffering. Should bandwidth be low, videos will automatically be displayed at a lower quality in an attempt to avoid draining the network.

The move comes following discussions between EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton and Reed Hastings, Netflix’s CEO, earlier this week.

Breton had called on streaming platforms to take the necessary measures to avoid putting too much strain on the Internet as citizens across the continent increase their home usage.

“Social distancing measures to fight the Coronavirus lead to increased demand for Internet capacity be it for teleworking, e-learning or entertainment purposes,” a statement from Breton read.

“I welcome the very prompt action that Netflix has taken to preserve the smooth functioning of the Internet during the COVID19 crisis while maintaining a good experience for users.”

For his part, Netflix Chief Hastings recognised the ‘extraordinary challenges’ that have arisen as part of the Coronavirus outbreak.

“Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days,” he 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.”

A spokesperson from Netflix told EURACTIV that the company has been focused on network efficiency “for many years,” and that the firm’s ‘open connect service’, which provides local content servers to Internet Service Providers and telecommunications companies for free, already results in a reduction of internet capacity usage.

(Edited by Frédéric Simon)

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