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Streaming services asked to switch to SD

Will Disney+ launch in standard definition?

by Andy Bassett

Concerns over the effect so many extra people staying at home will have on the network infrastructure have led to calls for a switch from HD streaming to SD.

UPDATE: Netflix has now confirmed that it will lower the picture quality of its streaming service by reducing the data stream by 25-percent. This appears to be a compromise as no mention of a return to standard definition has been mentioned and the company commented that most viewers will still find the picture quality good. 

The change was only announced for Netflix’s European services and would last for 30 days.

"Following the discussions between Commissioner Thierry Breton and [Netflix chief executive] Reed Hastings, and given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus, Netflix has decided to begin reducing bitrates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days," the company said.

The original story continues below:


European Union commissioner Thierry Breton has called upon providers to stream their content in lower resolutions in an effort to alleviate the extra strain that is now being placed on networks as more and more workers turn to working from home under the latest guidelines to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

In a tweet, Bretton said he had spoken to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings about the situation and that “To beat #COVID19, we #StayAtHome 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.”

Bretton’s thinking is that in order to support the additional call upon network capacity as it responds to demands for webmail, remote access and video conferencing, those services which typically require greater bandwidth may have to throttle back to allow crucial working to take place unhindered.

Most apps used in a work environment are not typically data intensive with popular corporate video chat apps such as Microsoft teams only using 0.5 - 1.0Mbps compared to a TV show or movie streamed at 4K with HDR which can use between 20 - 44Mbps.

However, with so many people at home - and with school children now adding to that number when schools close on March 20th - demand for streamed entertainment or educational supplements during the day is sure to soar, putting strain on networks.

The BBC reported that providers had seen a spike in demand, with Vodafone seeing a 30 percent rise in internet traffic and Talk Talk reporting a 20 percent surge since Monday.

However, Talk Talk told the BBC that, “We continually optimise our network for both our consumer and business customers and are well prepared to ensure they receive reliable connectivity," while Vodafone indicated that despite the usual ‘busy hours’ increasing the spike in usage were ‘largely the same.’

Whether, Netflix, Amazon and other streaming services respond to the EU commissioner’s request remains to be seen but the launch of Disney+ on 24th March is certain to add strain to networks as subscribers rush to watch The Mandalorian along with the pick of Disney’s Pixar and Marvel offerings. 

What do home workers and movie fans think of the EU’s suggestion? Is it important to prioritise traffic or will reducing content to Standard Definition not have much of an impact? Please let us know your thoughts in the discussion thread.

Source: BBCUpdate: BBC
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