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YouTube joins Netflix in reducing streaming quality

Does this set the precedent for other services and territories during the coronavirus crisis?

by Andy Bassett

Following Netflix’s decision to temporarily lower video bit rates of its streaming service, YouTube has announced that it will follow suit and reduce the quality of its video streams to lessen the impact on stretched networks during the coronavirus crisis.

After a remarkably quick turnaround that saw a phone call to Netflix lead to the world’s largest subscription streaming service agreeing to reduce its streaming quality across the whole of Europe in around 24 hours, it seems that Alphabet Inc (Google’s owners) have agreed to do the same for its YouTube platform.

With Netflix CEO Reed Hastings having set a precedent following EU commissioner Thierry Breton’s phone call, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki agreed to follow the streaming giant’s lead and impose a 30 day restriction on the bandwidth the service would require to stream its contents.

While Netflix has lowered streaming rates by 25 percent, YouTube appears to have taken a different approach and will switch to Standard Definition (SD) streaming across the board. 

A statement issued said, “[W]e are making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default. While we have seen only a few usage peaks, we have measures in place to automatically adjust our system to use less network capacity.

The steps are deemed to be necessary in order for the European data networks to provide the capacity now required with millions of Europeans staying at home to work or self-isolate as countries respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Figures from US networking equipment vendor Sandvine, which tracks bandwidth consumption trends using data from internet service provider customers worldwide, showed that in 2019 video accounted for just over 60 percent of data delivered from internet providers to consumers. Therefore a reduction from two of the biggest contributors to this traffic - both Netflix and YouTube accounted for about 12 percent each of this total) will help reduce the load on the networks.

In a statement, Breton said that given the unprecedented situation, “streaming platforms, telecom operators and users all have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet during the battle against the virus propagation.

Millions of Europeans are adapting to social distancing measures thanks to digital platforms, helping them to telework, e-learn and entertain themselves. I warmly welcome the initiative that Google has taken to preserve the smooth functioning of the internet during the COVID-19 crisis by having YouTube switch all EU traffic to standard definition by default. I appreciate the strong responsibility that Mr. Pichai and Mrs. Wojcicki have demonstrated.”

Have any AVForums visitors noticed a drop in video quality from either Netflix or YouTube yet? If so why not drop into the discussion thread and let others know what the overall effect has been. 

Source: Reuters, Variety
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: SearchEngineJournal.com

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