YouTube, Netflix switch to SD in Europe to meet rising demand

March 20 (UPI) -- Streaming giants YouTube and Netflix have reduced their video quality in Europe to offset surging demand from viewers as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

YouTube on Friday joined Netflix in allowing only standard-definition streaming in Europe after a request from European Union Commissioner Thierry Breton, to ensure adequate bandwidth meets rising demand. Netflix announced its decision Thursday.


Breton, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki met this week to discuss the surging demand, although they said there's been only "a few usage peaks."

The reduction in video quality will last for at least 30 days.

"We will continue working with member state governments and network operators to minimize stress on the system, while also delivering a good user experience," YouTube said in a statement.

Netflix switched to standard definition after CEO Reed Hastings also met with Breton.

"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 said.

Breton, the official responsible for the EU's internal market, said the moves are a preventive measure to "preserve the smooth functioning of the Internet" during the coronavirus crisis -- which has placed unusual strain on providers' bandwidth because more people are working from home and watching video streams in quarantine.


"Streaming platforms, telecom operators and users, we all have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the Internet during the battle against the virus propagation," Breton said.

Also on Friday, Netflix announced it's created a $100 million to help workers in TV and film production deal with hardship while productions are shut down during the pandemic. This includes electricians, carpenters, drivers, and hair and makeup artists.

Netflix said the funds will be in addition to the two weeks of pay the company has already committed to giving cast and crew on productions that were forced to halt last week.

The company said $15 million of the fund will go to third parties and non-profits that provide relief to out-of-work crew and casts in countries where Netflix has a production base. And $1 million each will go to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation COVID-19 Disaster Fund, the Motion Picture and Television Fund and the Actors Fund Emergency Assistance.

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