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SYFY WIRE coronavirus

Netflix and Disney+ to reduce video quality in Europe as viewership spikes amid pandemic

By Josh Weiss
Stranger Things 3

The coronavirus pandemic continues to yield unexpected issues for the world of entertainment. With no theaters open (and that means no box-office numbers), people can still get their cinematic fix at home, right? Well, it's not that simple for people trying to stream films and shows across the pond.

As more and more people make the wise decision to stay home amid the health scare, European internet providers are facing a bandwidth "crunch." To help combat this problem (which has affected Italy and Spain the hardest), streaming platforms like NetflixDisney+, Amazon, Apple, and YouTube will be reducing video quality by at least 25 percent in the EU and United Kingdom.

Per Variety, Netflix is promising customers that they can still stream HD and Ultra-HD content. Despite being somewhat paradoxical, this strategy goes into effect for the next 30 days.

Netflix headquarters

"The action we’ve taken maintains the full range of video resolutions," wrote Ken Florance, Netflix’s VP of content delivery, in a blog post Saturday night. "So whether you paid for Ultra-High Definition (UHD), High Definition (HD), or Standard Definition (SD), that is what you should continue to get (depending on the device you are using).”

Disney+ plans to do the same thing, as it launches in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland this coming Tuesday, March 24. Due to a request from the French government, the service's France debut has been pushed off to Tuesday, April 7.

“In line with Disney’s longstanding commitment to act responsibly, we are responding to the request of European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton to work together to ensure the smooth functioning of the broadband infrastructure,” Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer and International division, said in a statement published by Variety in a separate report. "In the coming days, we will be monitoring internet congestion and working closely with internet service providers to further reduce bit rates as necessary to ensure they are not overwhelmed by consumer demand. We look forward to the launch of Disney+ and hope it will provide a much-needed respite for families in these challenging and trying times."

Missing media item.

Streaming has certainly made it easier to weather the pandemic, but the global malaise has shut down all active productions for popular shows like Stranger Things and Big Mouth. During an appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources (via Deadline), Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos offered an update on how the current health situation affects the company's timetable.

“It’s been a massive disruption. Every of one of our productions around the world are shut down. It’s unprecedented in history,” he said. “What’s happening now is we work pretty far ahead with delivering all the episodes of our shows at once, so [there is] no disruption over the next few months. Maybe later in the year as physical production is not operational."

Sarandos mentioned that Big Mouth (the coming-of-age animated comedy co-created by Nick Kroll) recently hosted a 40-person table read over the internet.

"People are getting geared up for a time they can get back to work," he explained.

Big Mouth Season 2

With shoots not taking place and people working from home, Netflix is still paying its employees for a two-week period. A $100 million relief was also set up for workers in the film and television industry.

While streaming is here for the world during its time of self-isolation, theaters are taking a major hit. Today, Australia became the latest country to close down its movie houses. In the U.S., Christopher Nolan is asking for our help in making sure theaters bounce back once the pandemic is over.

For our list of all the events, films, TV shows, and more affected by the pandemic, click here. And for extensive information on how to keep you and your loved ones safe, check out the CDC’s coronavirus website.