YouTube and Amazon Prime are following Netflix by reducing streaming quality in Europe to prevent traffic overload in face of coronavirus pandemic

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  • YouTube and Amazon both said Friday they would reduce the quality of their streams in Europe to deal with the influx of internet traffic amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The two companies' announcements follow a move taken by Netflix after requests to do so by the European Union's industry chief to prevent traffic overload.
  • Internet traffic has grew significantly worldwide in recent weeks as millions of people follow orders to work from home and stay inside to stymie to spread of coronavirus.
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YouTube and Amazon Prime are joining Netflix in reducing their platform's streaming quality in order to deal with the onslaught of internet traffic, as millions of people are spending more time online and at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

Both video services said Friday they had agreed to switch their streams default to a lower standard-definition quality by default, Reuters first reported. The move follows a request by European Union commissioner Thierry Breton that streaming platforms reduce their traffic in order to accomodate the increase of internet use worldwise.
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This move to reduce streaming quality is only in effect for 30 days, and covers the European Union and the United Kingdom (which is leaving the EU soon). High-definition streams require more bandwidth, so setting users' streams to standard-definition by default should help to lower bit rates and free up internet access.

The announcements from YouTube and Amazon Prime come a day after Netflix said it would adjust its streaming resolution to reduce internet traffic.

"People are coming to YouTube to find authoritative news, learning content and make connections during these uncertain times," YouTube said in a statement. "We are in ongoing conversations with the regulators (including Ofcom), governments and network operators all over Europe, and are making a commitment to temporarily default all traffic in the UK and the EU to Standard Definition. We will continue our work to minimize stress on the system, while also delivering a good user experience."
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The demand for internet access has spiked in recent weeks as an increasing amount of people are spending time at home and in isolation to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the COVID-19 disease. Millions have been ordered to work from home, as cities have started to place residents on lockdown and others take steps to "flatten the curve" and prevent coronavirus' escalation.

Telecom companies and internet providers have already started to prepare for the onslaught in internet usage from people spending time at home when they're normally at work and school. A major cloud provider, Akami, recently said it had seen 50% more web traffic than usual this year. Video can account for nearly 70% of network traffic, according to analysts, so the hope is a reduction in streaming quality will help to free up networks so others can avoid issues with accessing the internet.
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Another major streaming service, Disney+, is planned to launch in several European countries on March 24. However, Disney has not yet said whether it will also reduce its streaming quality.

It's unclear how effective the 30-day reduction in quality will be, and whether that time period could be extended further.

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