March 19, 2020
As one of the largest distributors of digital data across high-speed networks, Netflix has agreed to reduce its streaming bit rates in Europe over the next 30 days as the region grapples with the coronavirus pandemic that has now exceeded China in the number of infections and deaths.
The move comes after CEO Reed Hastings met with European Commissioner Thierry Breton about Netflix reducing its strain on European networks.
“Following the discussions between Commissioner Thierry Breton and Reed Hastings — and given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus — Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days,” Netflix said in an email. “We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members.”
With mandatory at-home quarantine in some countries, people have turned to the Internet for work and school. At the same time, Netflix has more than 106 million subscribers outside the United States. Its standard definition videos reportedly consume about 1GB of data per hour, while HD videos eat up 3GB of data per hour. Video consumption accounts for about 70% of bandwidth used across European networks.
Akamai reports its networks are experiencing 50% more Web traffic than previously used during this time period. CEO Tom Leighton told Business Insider the company’s peak traffic load in Q1 is twice what it was during the same period last year.
“I think we’ll see more acceleration due to the fact that you have so many more people working from home and you have, kids out of school and spending more time at home,” Leighton said.