Due to social distancing and isolation measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, people are spending more time at home streaming video from the internet. According to Bloomberg, Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings, Alphabet Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki have been in discussions with European Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton regarding increased internet traffic. Following these discussions, YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon have put measures in place to cut back internet congestion in Europe.
Netflix lead the group, announcing last Thursday that it would begin to reduce streaming bit rates in Europe for a month, later extending this policy to India. Amazon released a statement the next day saying that, in regards to Europe, the company has “begun the effort to reduce streaming bit rates while maintaining a quality streaming experience for our customers.” YouTube also announced last Friday that it would temporarily default video playback in Europe to standard definition (480p). This week, YouTube has begun making standard definition the global default. Users can still watch videos in high definition, but they’ll have to manually select quality options above 480p. Google issued the following statement:
We continue to work closely with governments and network operators around the globe to do our part to minimize stress on the system during this unprecedented situation.