Streaming services answer Europe’s call for reduced video quality
Last week, EU industry chief Thierry Breton called on over-the-top (OTT) services like Netflix and YouTube to reduce the quality of their streaming services in order to limit bandwidth usage, calling it their “joint responsibility” alongside the network operators to keep the internet running smoothly.
Streaming videos via these services can account for up to two-thirds of data usage on fixed and mobile network, with ultra-high quality video in particular a huge drain on the networks.
Overall, OTTs have responded very positively to the EU’s request. Netflix and YouTube, both specifically called upon in Breton’s plea, have both agreed to limit their video quality for 30 days, promising to extend this for as long as is necessary. Amazon and Apple have also committed to doing likewise.
Yesterday, Facebook (and by extension Instagram) have also pledged to reduce their video streaming quality, noting that they are prepared to do so in other international markets should the need arise.
Until recently, all eyes in the streaming world were on Disney, who are preparing to launch their streaming service, Disney+, around the world. The service’s launch in India was notably delayed last week due to the coronavirus outbreak postponing the Indian Premier League cricket, which was scheduled to be the services big local draw. No such delays for Europe, however, with Disney+ scheduled to launch as planned tomorrow.
With more people working from home than ever before, these uncertain times could provide a boon for streaming services, potentially giving Disney+ even more impetus to challenge Netflix’s streaming hegemony.
The new service will not shirk its utilitatian reposibility towards the networks, however, with Disney+ already pledging to reduce its bandwidth usage by at least 25% in Europe.
It should be noted here that there is still a reasonable level of personal responsibility on behalf of the customers here when it comes to streaming service usage. YouTube, for example, is setting the default video playback to standard definition, but customers can still manually select HD if they so choose.
Currently, it is unclear if the other OTTs will also give their customers the option to manually override the limitations they are putting in place. If so, this could result in something of a prisoner’s dilemma: it will be in all of the customers’ best interests to consume video in lower definition to avoid crashing the network, but just how many would altruistically deny themselves HD?
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