Netflix is reducing streaming bit rates in Europe to relieve networks strained by coronavirus pandemic

March 19, 2020, 7:30 PM UTC

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Netflix Inc. agreed to reduce its streaming traffic in Europe by about 25% for the next month, an attempt to relieve networks strained by the coronavirus pandemic.

The move follows discussions between European Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton and Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings.

“Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe,” the Silicon Valley-based company said in a statement Thursday. “We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members.”

The virus outbreak has shuttered schools, businesses and restaurants in much of the region, sending millions of people home — where they’re using services like Netflix. The amount of time people spent streaming spiked by more than 20% worldwide last weekend, including more than 40% in Austria and Spain.

The surge has regulators to pressure 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,” 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.”

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