Netflix and YouTube are both reducing video-streaming quality in Europe to reduce the stress on residential broadband networks caused by the coronavirus pandemic forcing people to stay home.

Netflix is reducing the bit rate on video streams, but not the resolution, for the next 30 days in the EU and UK, the BBC reported. The BBC said that “movies will still be high-definition or ultra-high definition 4K” despite the bit-rate decrease, but other news sources suggest that resolution could be cut, too. It’s not clear what the exact changes in bit rates are—we asked Netflix to clarify these points but haven’t gotten an answer yet.

After discussions with a European government official who called for lowered video quality, “Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days,” Netflix said in a statement quoted by The Verge. “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.”

The Verge article also noted that “if bandwidth is low, videos will automatically stream at a lower resolution.”

YouTube seems to be taking a slightly different approach. “We are making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default,” YouTube said in a statement quoted by Reuters today. YouTube owner Google told Ars that the change will be in place in the EU and UK for 30 days.

Standard definition generally means 480p, or DVD quality. But YouTube’s statement that videos will stream in “standard definition by default” means that users can keep using the toggle on each video to switch to a higher resolution. Google confirmed to Ars that users can still manually adjust the quality of any video they watch on a computer, TV, or mobile device. Making 480p the default would still reduce overall broadband-data usage significantly, even if many users switch to higher resolutions.

Google told Ars that YouTube has “seen only a few usage peaks,” and has “measures in place to automatically adjust our system to use less network capacity.” We asked Netflix if it has seen any performance problems. We also asked Netflix and YouTube whether they plan to make similar changes in the US as the pandemic goes on. We’ll update this story if we get any more details.

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By Expat