Netflix now has 139 million people around the world paying to beam TV shows and movies to their homes and smartphones. Photo: Bloomberg
Netflix now has 139 million people around the world paying to beam TV shows and movies to their homes and smartphones. Photo: Bloomberg

Netflix, Hotstar, Facebook, others to offer only SD content as users binge watch

  • As people are working from home, bandwidth demand for office work, entertainment has risen manifold
  • COAI has urged telecom department to give more spectrum to mobile service providers for the time being to meet demand

NEW DELHI: As the pressure on Internet bandwidth increases with people staying at home amid the coronavirus scare, over the top (OTT) platforms, which provide video content riding on Internet bandwidth, have decided to reduce the streaming quality to help ease the strain on the networks.

Content will now only be available only in SD (standard definition) and not higher quality HD (high definition), agreed companies like Netflix, Hotstar, Facebook, among others. These measures will be in effect until 14 April.

As the country goes into a complete lockdown, organisations have been forced to allow employees to work from home. This in turn has put stress on network connections everywhere, as home WiFi networks are being used for office work, entertainment and more by people all over the country.

Multiple reports have suggested that networks in India could break down, though internet service providers (ISPs) continue to show confidence that their networks are ready to take the traffic.

On Tuesday, Uday Shankar, chairman, Star and Disney India and other key stakeholders of the digital industry held a virtual meeting that included NP Singh (Sony), Sanjay Gupta (Google), Ajit Mohan (Facebook), Sudhanshu Vats (Viacom18), Gaurav Gandhi (Amazon Prime Video), Punit Goenka (Zee), Nikhil Gandhi (Tiktok), Ambika Khurana (Netflix), Karan Bedi (MX Player) and Varun Narang (Hotstar).

A statement released by them said:

“The digital industry has decided to act immediately in the larger national and consumer interest and to ensure the robustness of the cellular network. It was unanimously agreed that as an exceptional measure, all companies will immediately adopt measures, including temporarily defaulting HD and ultra-HD streaming to SD content or offering only SD content, at bitrates no higher than 480p on cellular networks," it added.

Earlier, this week, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had requested the government to direct video streaming platforms such as Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and Hotstar to reduce their streaming quality to SD as more people start working from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

COAI has urged the telecom department to provide more spectrum to mobile service providers on an interim basis to help meet the surge in demand.

“We continue to work closely with governments and network operators around the globe to do our part to minimize stress on the system during this unprecedented situation. Last week, we announced that we were temporarily defaulting all videos on YouTube to standard definition in the European Union (EU). Given the global nature of this crisis, we will expand that change globally starting today," a spokesperson from Google said in a statement on Wednesday.

YouTube In India will set SD as its default video quality on mobile networks. This will be in effect till April 14, which is when the 21-day lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday ends.

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