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Netflix video quality will no longer be downgraded because of coronavirus

Published May 14th, 2020 2:15PM EDT
Netflix Video Quality
Image: BigTunaOnline/Shutterstock

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  • Netflix streams in some European countries have reverted back to normal HD quality after Netflix reduced streaming bitrates back in March.
  • Netflix’s initial decision came in response to the coronavirus pandemic which left millions of people in countries across the world stuck at home and glued to their TVs.
  • YouTube and Amazon in March also downgraded their video quality in Europe, but there’s no word as to when they’ll revert back.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

With the coronavirus leaving tens of millions of people across the world stuck at home, Netflix back in March decided to downgrade the quality of its video streams in Europe from HD to standard definition. The impetus behind the decision was to reduce the strain on ISPs and to ensure a robust viewing experience for all subscribers.

Now, with many cities across the globe slowly but surely starting to reopen, FlatpanelsHD is reporting that Netflix streams have returned to their normal HD quality in a number of European countries.

According to the report, Netflix users in “Denmark, Norway, Germany, and other European countries have contacted FlatpanelsHD or taken to forums to report that streaming quality has been restored, meaning 4K HDR streaming at up to 15 Mb/s bitrate. HD bitrates are also reverting back to normal.”

While this is certainly welcome news, the reality is that Netflix’s compression algorithm is so efficient that there’s a good chance most Netflix viewers didn’t even notice much a difference. In fact, even Netflix’s SD streams tend to look pretty crisp on HDTVs. Still, if you’re a videophile who can notice slight degradations in video quality, the good news is that the days of reduced streaming bitrates appear to be in the rearview mirror.

In a statment provided to Flatpanels HD, a Netflix spokesperson said:

Please note, we are working with ISPs to help increase capacity. In the last month alone we have added four times the normal capacity. As conditions improve we will lift these limitations.

Similar to Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon in March started reducing their streaming bitrates to help lessen the load on networking infrastructure. With YouTube in particular, videos are still playing in standard definition by default, though users have the ability to revert back to HD quality manually if they so choose.

Incidentally, Netflix’s programming hasn’t yet suffered from the coronavirus pandemic. Company executives have said that the streaming giant has enough programming in the pipeline to keep the original content flowing through the end of the year. So while current Netflix productions are on hold, viewers won’t be seeing a drop off in new content anytime soon, if at all.

Case in point: Netflix in May will introduce 49 new original movies and TV shows. At this point, it’s literally impossible to keep up with all of the content Netflix is pumping out on a month-to-month basis, but it’s not like we’re complaining.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.

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