Netflix Explains Streaming Video Quality Slowdown

Characterizing the current coronavirus spread as a “global crisis,” Netflix March 23 reiterated its responsibility to “help where we can.” Last week, the European Union asked companies like Netflix, Amazon and YouTube to ensure they are using telecommunications networks as efficiently as possible given the unprecedented network demand from quarantined residents.

In a blog post, Ken Florance, VP of content delivery at Netflix, said the SVOD pioneer quickly developed, tested and deployed a way to reduce its traffic on impacted networks by 25% — starting with Italy and Spain, which were experiencing the biggest impact.

“Within 48 hours, we’d hit that goal and we’re now deploying this across the rest of Europe and the U.K.,” Florance wrote. Netflix just reduced its streaming bit rate in Israel.

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To help clarify questions from subscribers concerned about the reduced streaming bit rates, Florance said the action taken by Netflix maintains the full range of video resolutions.

“Whether you paid for Ultra-High Definition (UHD), High-Definition (HD), or Standard-Definition (SD), that is what you should continue to get (depending on the device you are using),” he wrote.

Florance said that under normal circumstances sometimes has dozens of different streams for a single title within each resolution. In Europe, for the next 30 days, within each category Netflix just removed the highest bandwidth streams — resulting in a “very slight decrease” in quality within each resolution.

“But you will still get the video quality you paid for,” he said.

Florance said the ongoing crisis is impacting ISPs differently depending on where they’re located. He said some partners in regions such as Latin America want Netflix to reduce its bandwidth. But others with excess capacity want to continue with business as usual.

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“This is understandable, as different ISPs around the world have built their networks in different ways, and operate within different constraints,” Florance said.

He said Netflix would provide “relief “to ISPs dealing with large government-mandated “shelter in place” orders by providing the 25% traffic reduction started in Europe. For other networks, Netflix will stick with normal procedures until situations change.

“Our goal is simple: to maintain the quality of service for our members, while supporting ISPs who are facing unprecedented strain on their networks,” Florance wrote.

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