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YouTube and Netflix reduce streaming quality in Europe, but Disney+ launch looms

Video streaming services that seemed to be entering a golden age just a few weeks ago are now under pressure by European governments worried about the surge of internet traffic caused by coronavirus quarantines.

France is on the frontline in this battle following the decision to impose mandatory confinement starting March 17. With schools turning to distance learning to keep students on track, adults being required to work at home, and friends staying connected via Zoom and Skype, the internet infrastructure is groaning under the massive demand.

DE-CIX, a global internet exchange company based in Frankfurt, Germany, reported that at its main network node it’s seen average data traffic leap more than 10% in recent weeks, including reaching a new all-time peak of 9.1 Terabits per second data throughput. The uses driving that surge include a 50% increase in video-conferencing traffic and a 25% increase in cloud gaming and social media use.

While that’s just a snapshot from Frankfurt, the same pressure is being felt across Europe. That pushed Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, to ask streaming services to help lighten the load.

Netflix subsequently announced that it would lower its streaming resolution for 30 days across Europe. “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,” the company said in a statement sent to journalists.

YouTube also agreed to reduce its resolution after Breton made the request to Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai. “We are making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default,” the company said in a statement.

Breton has reportedly requested that Disney+ delay its planned March 24 launch in several European countries, including the U.K. and France. Disney already canceled its planned European launch event earlier this month.

So far, Disney has not announced a delay. VentureBeat has reached out to the company for comment and will update this story.

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