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.

Free TV Streaming Service ‘Locast’ Fights Back Against Major Broadcasters With Countersuit

Locast, the free New York-based service that streams broadcast television feeds online, on Sept. 27 filed a lawsuit against NBC, CBS, Fox and ABC, alleging the major broadcasts colluded to undermine its business, among other claims.

The service claims to have about 700,000 registered users/donors across 13 cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, N.Y., is counter litigation against against a civil complaint filed by broadcasters in July against Locast and its non-profit advocacy group Sports Fans Coalition NY parent, alleging the platform violated the content copyrights and revenue streams from pay-TV distributors.

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Locast founder David Goodfriend, in his countersuit, claims the networks colluded to put pressure on pay-TV operators in an effort to undermine his business model.

Under federal law, broadcasters must make their signals available to the public through a digital antennae. But pay-TV operators pay networks retransmission fees to distribute their signals.

Locast, as a non-profit, argues it merely acts as a “signal booster.”

“This is classic copyright abuse,” read the complaint. “[Networks] have misused copyrights to expand their market power beyond what those copyrights were intended to protect.”

Unique to the case is the fact Locast has received funding from major media companies such as AT&T ($500,000), which owns WarnerMedia, and Google’s YouTube.

The suit alleges the networks threatened YouTube with litigation if it enabled Locast to operate on its servers.

Yet, when AT&T’s DirecTV satellite distributor and U-verse pay-TV channel had a retransmissions fee dispute with CBS this summer, it directed its 6.5 million subs blacked out from CBS content to use Locast.

Indeed, Dish Network offers the Locast app to its satellite and Sling TV subs as alternative on its AirTV devices.