YouTube and Netflix are cutting streaming quality in Europe due to coronavirus lockdowns

Sergei Konkov | TASS | Getty Images

YouTube and Netflix are reducing streaming quality in Europe as more countries and regions enter lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The move is intended to help the internet run smoothly as traffic spikes due to more people in the region being forced to stay at home.

Google subsidiary YouTube said it was "making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default" in a media statement on Friday. It said the move would be for a preliminary period of 30 days.

All YouTube videos are available in standard definition, but select videos can usually be watched in high definition or ultra-high definition, meaning the picture will be sharper. 


YouTube's decision comes after Netflix announced it would be reducing its streaming quality across Europe for a 30-day period.

The Silicon Valley giant began limiting video quality across all European streams from Thursday following a conversation between EU Commissioner Thierry Breton and CEO Reed Hastings.

"We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members," a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Netflix usually offers users on its higher-tier plans the option of streaming content in high definition or ultra-high definition. Streaming Netflix TV shows or movies in standard definition uses around 1GB of internet data per hour, while HD uses up to 3GB an hour.

Several countries in the EU, including Italy and Spain, are in lockdown as they grapple with surging cases of the new coronavirus, while citizens of other nations, like the U.K., are being encouraged to observe social distancing and work from home.