Netflix is Lowering the EU's Streaming Quality, and Yes That Also Applies to the UK

By Tom Pritchard on at

Back at the end of January, Britain formally exited the EU, and entered that weird limbo-ish state known as the 'transition period'. In other words we're not members of the EU, but we're still also counted as one whenever something is set to penalise us. Like you're buying stuff from the continent, or Netflix decides to lower the streaming bit rate in the EU to try and ease the burden on the broadband infrastructure. Because that's happening, and it will apply to us.

The news that the EU asked for streaming quality to be lowered broke yesterday, and last night Netflix confirmed it would be complying for the next 30 days. Because everyone is working from home now, and it's causing prolonged strain on the broadband infrastructure – the the point where countries like Spain have already asked people to ration their usage during peak times.

Netflix said:

"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 bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days. We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members.”

But it wasn't clear what we had to do with it, especially since BT has been adamant that our broadband infrastructure is just fine. But Netflix has confirmed via email that it does affect us, though it insists that picture quality will be just fine.

That's because they're lowering the data transfer speed (bit rates to you nerds) and says that won't affect picture quality. In other words Netflix is saying people who pay for HD and 4K streams shouldn't notice much difference, though whether that is true in practice is still unclear.