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Netflix to Reduce Streaming Bit Rates by 25 Percent Across European Union

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Netflix has agreed to reduce its streaming bit rates across Europe, the company said Thursday, to help keep internet traffic under control during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a new report from Reuters, the decision will see the company reduce the quality of its pictures by 25 percent over the next 30 days to help ease the strain on providers who have seen a surge in the number of customers streaming online since the outbreak.

“We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement.

The move follows conversations between Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and the European Commissioner Thierry Breton.

“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,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement.  “We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members.”

Netflix expects that some customers will see a reduction in picture quality, although many will not. The small number getting its most expensive package with Ultra High Definition (4K), will be the most likely to notice the difference. The majority of customers pay for Netflix’s standard package, which comes with high-definition quality.

The streaming giant had pointed out that it already used “adaptive bit rate” technology to tailor the quality of video streams to network capacity, and keep a lid on bandwidth consumption — and, of course, users can always make their own adjustments.

But now, Netflix has done the sensible thing, and made the change at the server end, meaning we may all have to make do without 4K Netflix for a while.

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