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Disney+ will reduce its impact on Europe’s internet, as streamers adjust to the coronavirus

A scene from “Frozen 2.”
A scene from “Frozen 2,” one of the movies available on Disney+.
(Disney)

Disney+ on Saturday joined a growing number of streaming services that agreed to reduce their load on Europe’s internet infrastructure after a commissioner raised concerns about whether the region could handle the rising demand for streaming as more people shelter at home to protect themselves from the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Disney+ will reduce its overall bandwidth utilization by at least 25% in all of the European countries where it will launch the service Tuesday, said Kevin Mayer, Walt Disney Co.'s chairman of direct-to-consumer and international business. Those countries include the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria and Switzerland.

“In the coming days, we will be monitoring internet congestion and working closely with internet service providers to further reduce bitrates as necessary to ensure they are not overwhelmed by consumer demand,” Mayer said.

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European Commissioner Thierry Breton had asked streamers to take measures to prevent congestion on the internet. One of the suggestions he presented was switching to standard definition when high-definition was not necessary.

“To beat #COVID19, we #StayAtHome,” Breton tweeted on Wednesday. “Teleworking & streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain.”

After he raised his concerns, Netflix said it would decrease its traffic on Europe’s networks by 25% and reduce its bit rates, or the bits per second, to transmit video streams onto screens. In Europe, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video are also reducing their bit rates and Google said its division, YouTube, would switch the views of its videos to standard definition by default.

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“We support the need for careful management of telecom services to ensure they can handle the increased internet demand with so many people now at home full-time due to COVID-19,” an Amazon Prime Video spokeswoman said in a statement. “Prime Video is working with local authorities and Internet Service Providers where needed to help mitigate any network congestion, including in Europe where we’ve already begun the effort to reduce streaming bitrates whilst maintaining a quality streaming experience for our customers.”

As governments and businesses put measures into place to encourage more people to stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19, the demand for streaming services has risen. More people are using apps such as Zoom to conduct video conferences and free streaming sites like Pluto TV are seeing a sharp increase as people look for ways to entertain themselves and consume news.

All of that has placed more pressure on broadband networks. Telecommunications companies, including Verizon and T-Mobile, requested and received approval from the U.S. Federal Communication Commission to use wireless spectrum assigned to other companies.


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