Netflix to cut European traffic to preserve functioning of internet during Covid-19 crisis

Streaming service says it will reduce bit rates in Europe, after pressure from EU chief

A laptop screen displays the Netflix homepage. File photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

A laptop screen displays the Netflix homepage. File photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

 

Netflix said on Thursday it would reduce its bit rates across all its streams in Europe, in effect cutting traffic on its European networks by 25 per cent, to preserve the smooth functioning of the internet during the coronavirus crisis.

The move came after talks between EU industry chief Thierry Breton and Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings. Mr Breton had a day earlier urged the video streaming service to downgrade the quality of its video to avoid internet gridlock.

“Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe,” the Silicon Valley-based company said in a statement on Thursday.

“We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 per cent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members.”

The Covid-19 virus outbreak has shuttered schools, businesses and restaurants in much of Europe, sending millions of people home – where they’re using services like Netflix. The amount of time people spent streaming spiked by more than 20 per cent worldwide last weekend, including a spike of more than 40 per cent in Austria and Spain. The surge had prompted regulators to pressure streaming companies to lessen the load.

“I welcome the very prompt action that Netflix has taken to preserve the smooth functioning of the internet during the Covid-19 crisis while maintaining a good experience for users,” Mr Breton said. “Mr Hastings has demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility and solidarity. We’ll keep closely in touch to follow the evolution of the situation together.” – Reuters/Bloomberg