Following a conversation with European officials, Netflix is reducing bitrates of video streams in Europe for one month, which will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks (including the UK) by around 25 per cent.
However, it has confirmed that this will not affect resolution. Those who subscribe to its 4K Ultra HD Premium service will continue to receive 4K video, Dolby Atmos and surround sound, for example.
Instead, Netflix will cleverly lower the transmission bitrate that might result in a slight drop in picture quality: "This is a technical change that shouldn't affect the quality of the streaming - you will continue to see content in the quality of your plan (always depending on the connection and the device, as before), so your experience should be the same," the company said in a customer service post on Twitter.
The measure was introduced after European Union Commissioner Thierry Breton took to Twitter on Wednesday to reveal he had an "important phone conversation" with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. He said "infrastructures might be in strain" with so many people staying home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. He recommended people "switch to standard definition when HD [high-definition] is not necessary".
Important phone conversation with @ReedHastings, CEO of @Netflix— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) March 18, 2020
To beat #COVID19, we #StayAtHome
Teleworking & streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain.
To secure Internet access for all, let’s #SwitchToStandard definition when HD is not necessary.
It was followed by a Netflix statement: "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 bitrates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days."
The change has now been activated, it seems, with the Pocket-lint TV showing a 2160p stream at around 15Mbps (previously 20Mbps) - which matches the 25 per cent drop suggested. The picture still looks great, it must be said.
And those still worried about network overload shouldn't. BT's chief technology and information officer, Howard Watson, has revealed that the UK's network infrastructure can handle much more load than we have seen in the daytime so far.