Amazon, Netflix cut Europe’s stream quality to ease networks

5 Inc’s Prime Video will follow Netflix Inc and YouTube’s lead in reducing the speed of its streams across Europe to ensure networks can handle increased usage amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The moves follow separate discussions between European Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton and Netflix chief executive officer Reed Hastings, and with Google CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.

Amazon in a statement on Friday said it’s working with local authorities and Internet operators to help mitigate any network congestion caused by Prime Video, “including in Europe where we’ve already begun the effort to reduce streaming bit rates while maintaining a quality streaming experience for our customers.”

Google’s YouTube earlier said it would temporarily switch all traffic in Europe to standard definition by default for 30 days, adding it has so far only seen a few usage peaks.

Netflix was first to announce Thursday it would begin reducing bit rates across all its streams in Europe for a month. “We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members,” the Silicon Valley-based company said in a statement.

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The virus outbreak has shuttered schools, businesses and restaurants in much of the region, sending millions of people home — where they’re using services like Netflix and YouTube. The amount of time people spent streaming spiked by more than 20% worldwide last weekend, including more than 40% in Austria and Spain. While traffic has increased, EU telecom regulators say there haven’t been any signs of congestion in Europe and operators appear able to cope with the situation.

Still, the surge has left officials looking for ways to lessen the load.

Breton said he welcomed the action taken by Netflix and YouTube “to preserve the smooth functioning of the Internet during the Covid-19 crisis”. — Bloomberg