Standard definition has become the streaming default for YouTube users in Europe, a day after Netflix announced that it too would be trimming bitrates. The moves are a response to EU Commissioner Thierry Breton’s request Thursday that streaming platforms be mindful of the additional bandwidth demands as Europe faces lockdowns due to coronavirus, and people work from home in increasing numbers.
Users will still be able to switch to HD streams manually on YouTube, but they will default to SD. A spokesperson said: “While we have seen only a few usage peaks, we have measures in place to automatically adjust our system to use less network capacity. 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.”
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YouTube did not put a timeframe on how long the change would last. Netflix said its measures would be in place for 30 days. Breton welcomed the move from YouTube, which comes after a meeting with Google CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. “I appreciate the strong responsibility that Mr Pichai and Mrs Wojcicki have demonstrated,” he said. “We will closely follow the evolution of the situation together.”
Data analysts at GlobalData welcomed the moves, but have suggested it now falls on videogame companies to follow suit. “Although video streaming represents the lion’s share of residential internet traffic in Europe, interactive online gaming is a substantially greater threat in network overload terms,” said GlobalData Tech Service Director Emma Mohr-McClune.
Service providers in the region have yet to seriously buckle under the pressure, but Mohr-McClune warns that demand will only grow. “All European telcos are now putting capacity boost and traffic management processes into place, as a response to the ongoing crisis, but there [sic] efforts will be hampered without an honest dialogue between OTTs, state bodies and the network services industry.”
It now remains to be seen whether similar steps will be taken in the US, where authorities have so far resisted nationwide shutdowns. California yesterday issued stay-at-home orders for its residents.
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