US entertainment giant Netflix is cutting the bitrate of its video streaming in Australia to limit the load on networks that are being slammed by more traffic as people stay home due to the coronavirus outbreak.
VP of content delivery, Ken Florance, said the company has “developed a way to reduce Netflix’s traffic on telecommunications networks by 25 per cent” without greatly interfering with the stream quality.
“Consumers should continue to get the quality that comes with their plan – whether it’s Ultra-High, High or Standard Definition,” Florance said.
“We believe that this will provide significant relief to congested networks and will be deploying it in Australia for the next 30 days.”
Netflix deployed similar measures throughout Europe last week.
In a statement explaining the move, Florance said that within each resolution bracket for any given title, the service has different streams.
To cut down overall traffic, Netflix was simply disabling those streams with the highest information transfer rate for each resolution.
“If you are particularly tuned into video quality you may notice a very slight decrease in quality within each resolution,” Florance said. “But you will still get the video quality you paid for.”
Netflix was the first streaming service to announce it would try to ease the strain on Australia’s telecommunications networks, but the likes of Amazon and Disney+ have made similar decisions in Europe already.
Most recently, YouTube decided to lower the quality of its videos by opting all users out of automatic high definition streaming.
As Bloomberg reported, users will see streams in standard definition by default and will have to manually choose HD.
Governments make their plea
Tech giants have been responding to pressure from governments and ISPs who want to ensure their local networks can handle having most of the population confined to their houses.
Europe’s regulators called on “the responsibility of streaming services, operators and users” during these unprecedented times, advising streaming platforms “to offer standard rather than high definition”.
Netflix also cited requests from ISPs in Latin America when it began limiting its bandwidth use.
Australia’s government had made similar requests.
According to the Guardian, Communications Minister, Paul Fletcher, asked streaming platforms to lower their network traffic in a virtual industry roundtable with telcos and other stakeholders last week.
That same discussion produced the result of the NBN agreeing to provide free capacity relief for retail service providers over the next three months to help manage congestion.