YouTube is dropping HD streaming in Europe amid the coronavirus outbreak – joining Netflix.
Both streaming services are self-regulating and complying with a request from the EU. The move is temporary in response to calls from the European Commission for platforms to help ease demand. As more people stay home to work – infrastructure is being stress-tested.
Users can still switch to HD streaming – this move only applies to default streaming.
Even just that move could save lots of bandwidth; most people can’t tell the difference above 720p quality on small screens. A YouTube spokesperson confirmed the news, saying they had seen a few usage peaks.
“We have measures in place to automatically adjust our system to use less network capacity,” the statement says. “We are in ongoing conversations with the regulators, governments, and network operators all across Europe and are committing to temporarily default all traffic in the UK and EU to SD.”
YouTube did not say whether these changes would affect people in other regions, like the US Yesterday, Netflix announced it would do the same, defaulting to SD streaming in Europe for 30 days. Millions of Europeans are being encouraged to stay home as part of proactive quarantine measures.
The European Commission says it is concerned about the impact the sudden rise in demand may have. YouTube HD streaming is the very definition of a non-essential service.
Many people are now working from home, and their kids are attending online classes. A significant spike in demand for digital entertainment services could impact those essential use cases. The move is a smart one, and one both YouTube and Netflix will likely comply will if US infrastructure ever becomes overwhelmed.
Google says they haven’t seen much change in regional traffic peaks, but usage patterns are changing. More people are at home and using YouTube at a time when they would otherwise be at work, extending usage hours.