Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, most people have to stay quarantined at home to prevent the spread of the virus. This is causing increased network usage, as people need a stable connection to work, study, and of course, entertain themselves. Sadly, the latter requires a high bandwidth, which providers are trying to contain by reducing the quality of their service.

Netflix

  • What: Removing the highest bandwidth stream, but you'll still get to watch UHD content
  • Where: Europe and Latin America

Netflix is temporarily reducing its data consumption by removing the highest bandwidth streams. This essentially means the video will look slightly less sharp than usual, but you'll still get to enjoy 4K content if you've paid for it. These measures should reduce bandwidth consumption by about 25%, which should help in maintaining a stable connection for all users.

YouTube

  • What: Reducing the default video quality to 480p with the option to switch to higher ones
  • Where: Worldwide

YouTube is also participating in limiting its bandwidth consumption. It initially began doing so in Europe, by lowering its default resolution. It's now extending that limitation globally, which will hopefully avoid congesting networks. Videos are supposed to start playing in a standard 480p definition, but you'll still have the option to switch to a crisper quality without restrictions. Interestingly, I'm in France, and videos are defaulting at 720p, but this might not be the case for everyone.

Amazon Prime Video

  • What: Reduced bitrate
  • Where: Europe

Amazon is also working on limiting its streaming service's impact on data consumption. Although the company hasn't exactly stated what measures it's taking, it mentioned it's "working with local authorities and internet service providers where needed to help mitigate any network congestion, including in Europe, where [it's] already begun the effort to reduce streaming bitrates while maintaining a quality streaming experience for customers."

Apple TV+

  • What: Reduced resolution
  • Where: Europe

Apple TV+ users have reported a high drop in video quality, with resolutions as low as 670p and higher compression than usual, causing visible artifacts while playing. Apple doesn't seem to have issued an official statement, and the company might still be working on finding a better option to reduce bandwidth while limiting the impact on video resolution.

Disney+

  • What: Reduced bitrate if necessary
  • Where: Europe

Disney's new streaming service is due to launch in a bunch of European countries tomorrow, and the company published a statement explaining it will lower its expected bandwidth utilization by 25%. This doesn't necessarily mean reduced quality, as Disney will monitor congestion and reduce bitrates as needed. The French government has also asked the company to delay the launch by two weeks until April 7, which might be when the lockdown comes to an end.

Facebook and Instagram

  • What: Reduced bitrate
  • Where: Europe

What do people do when they're bored? They turn to social media, and that's precisely why Facebook is also part of the initiative and will "temporarily reduce bit rates for videos on Facebook and Instagram in Europe." This is probably less impactful than the other platforms above, as this content tends to be short and is usually meant to be watched on smaller screens.

GeForce NOW Founders

  • What: New people can't sign up
  • Where: Europe and potentially North America soon

Although this isn't directly linked to video streaming, Nvidia is preventing new members in Europe from signing up for GeForce NOW Founders membership, due to capacity limitations on their servers. The company anticipates their North American servers will also reach capacity soon but says it's working on quickly adding servers in their data centers. They might not be exactly working on reducing bandwidth, but limiting the number of members can also be a way to achieve this goal.

TikTok

  • What: No HD content for 30 days
  • Where: Europe

Given that TikTok content is exclusively based on videos, the streaming platform has decided to prevent users in Europe from watching content in HD for the next 30 days. Content creators will still be able to upload their videos in full quality.

Although many providers are working on limiting their impact on the overall bandwidth usage, it seems most of them are trying to minimize the repercussion on users. Others may follow soon and companies may even extend these limitations to other regions, so we'll update this post as we get more information on how they are adjusting their services.