Netflix Reduces Streaming Video Quality in Europe to Lower Data Usage and Ease Strain on Broadband Networks

Netflix has complied with a request from the European Union to lower its streaming video quality in Europe to ease network strain from the millions of people working from home.


According to the BBC, Netflix is reducing video quality in Europe for the next 30 days. Netflix says that the change will reduce data consumption by 25 percent, but that viewers will still be satisfied with picture quality.

To limit data use, Netflix is cutting streaming bitrates, which could cause videos to look a bit more pixelated.
"Following the discussions between Commissioner Thierry Breton and [Netflix chief executive] Reed Hastings, and given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus, Netflix has decided to begin reducing bitrates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days," the company said.
The European Union asked Netflix, YouTube, and other streaming services to consider temporary reductions in streaming quality due to the abnormally large number of people working from home and taking advantage of streaming services.

The EU wants streaming platforms to limit content to standard definition instead of high-definition, and it also wants individual users to pay attention to their data consumption rates.

Having a large number of people at home has led to worries that broadband connections, which are designed to cope with evening surges in traffic, may not be able to handle long days of adults engaging in video conferencing and children taking online classes or playing games. Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, saw a 75 percent rise in home broadband and mobile network traffic over the weekend.

Netflix has not said whether the bitrate reduction will be implemented in other countries like the United States, but it does not appear that U.S. internet providers have called for such measures at this time. The United States Federal Communications Commission earlier this week permitted Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular to temporarily use additional spectrum to meet increased demand for broadband access.
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EU Urges Netflix, YouTube to Consider Limiting Stream Quality to Ease Strain on Networks Amid Surge in Remote Working

The European Union has called on Netflix, YouTube and other streaming services to consider temporarily reducing streaming quality in a bid to ease the strain on the continent's broadband networks, as tens of millions of people start working from home amid the coronavirus pandemic (via Financial Times).


The EU said streaming platforms should consider offering only standard definition programming rather than high-definition, while individual users should pay attention to their data consumption.

Thierry Breton, a European commissioner in charge of digital policy, said streaming platforms and telecoms companies had a "joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet."

Responding to the call, a Netflix spokesperson acknowledged the potential issue, but pointed to the existing tools it already provides to ISPs that allow them to store its library closer to customers, thereby easing some of the burden on the internet's backbone.
"Commissioner Breton is right to highlight the importance of ensuring that the internet continues to run smoothly during this critical time," the company spokesperson said. "We've been focused on network efficiency for many years, including providing our open connect service for free to telecommunications companies."

Netflix's "adaptive streaming" technology also adjusted the resolution of a video according to available bandwidth in the home or local area, they added.

YouTube declined to comment.
According to FT, there are growing worries that domestic broadband connections, which were designed to cope only with evening surges in traffic, may not be able to handle long days of adults engaging in video conferencing and children taking online classes or logging on to play games or watch movies.

EU net neutrality laws prohibit the throttling of entertainment services, but several telecoms executives from across the continent have suggested a co-operative plan to safeguard the system was possible.

Italy, one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic, has seen a threefold increase in video teleconferencing, but this has had to compete with streaming and gaming – a combination that resulted in a 75 percent rise in home broadband traffic and mobile networks over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Spanish telecoms industry has issued a warning urging consumers to ration their internet usage by streaming and downloading more in off-peak hours. It also asked people to consider using landlines for voice calls.

On Tuesday, U.K. mobile networks suffered severe outages after the number of voice calls rose by 30 per cent and overloaded the system, leaving hundreds of thousands of customers unable to connect calls to people on other mobile networks.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) permitted Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular to temporarily use additional spectrum to meet increased broadband demand.
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Netflix Adding New ‘Top 10’ Lists Showcasing Most Popular Content

Netflix today announced a new feature that will see the streaming service offering a series of top 10 lists that highlight the most popular content on the platform.


There will be an overall top 10 list, a list for the top 10 most popular TV shows, and a list for the top 10 most popular movies. The latter two lists will be visible when visiting the TV show and movie tabs, respectively.

The top 10 lists will be specific to each country where Netflix is available, and the lists will be updated every day. Netflix says that the positioning of the list will vary "depending on how relevant the shows and films are to you."

Shows and films that are added to Netflix's top 10 lists will have a "Top 10" badge wherever they're located in the Netflix interface, so popular content will be visible whether people are browsing by genre, searching for specific shows, or selecting content from a personal list.

Netflix has been testing top 10 lists in Mexico and the UK over the course of the last six months, and is now ready to roll them out worldwide.

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Netflix is Finally Letting You Turn Off Those Annoying Autoplay Previews

Netflix today announced the launch of a new toggle that will let Netflix users turn off autoplay previews, which has been a controversial Netflix feature for years now.

When browsing through Netflix, the service is designed to play previews of the content that you stop on, which usually includes a trailer. Until today, Netflix has offered no option to turn these previews off.


As of now, though, you can disable them by opening up Netflix, selecting your profile, selecting Playback Settings and toggling off "Autoplay previews while browsing on all devices."


Changing the setting will prevent content from playing while you swap through different shows and movies. The setting will need to be enabled on a per-profile basis as it is not account wide.

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Analyst Survey Suggests Most Netflix Users Don’t Plan to Subscribe to Apple TV+

Three-quarters of Netflix subscribers have no intention of subscribing to either Apple TV+ or Disney+ when they launch next month, according to surveys conducted by Piper Jaffray (via CNBC).


According to the investment banker's survey of 1,500 Netflix subscribers, roughly 75 percent don't intend to subscribe to the upcoming rival streaming services, although those who do subscribe to Apple TV+ or Disney+ also expect to keep their Netflix subscription going.
"Our survey suggests that the majority (~75%) of Netflix subscribers do not intend to subscribe to either Disney+ or Apple TV+. For those that do expect to use one of these offerings, the vast majority expect to also maintain their Netflix subscription," Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson said.

"Most existing Netflix subscribers appear to be trending towards multiple streaming video subscriptions, especially as many continue to reduce their spend on traditional TV offerings," Olson said.
The survey should provide some comfort for Netflix investors following news of slowing subscriber growth over the last three months, along with fears about the effect that the new streaming competition will have on the company's stock price.

As CNBC's Michael Bloom notes, optimistic forecasts for Netflix were nearly universal on Wall Street as recently as July, but Netflix stock has since dropped nearly 30 percent and effectively wiped out its 2019 gains.

Amid the challenges, Netflix has been looking at new marketing strategies to help fend off its upcoming rivals. For example, the streaming leader has been offering non-subscribers access to the first episode of its new series, Bard of Blood, for a limited time.

Apple TV+ launches on November 1, with Disney+ arriving a little over a week after, on November 12. Apple is offering a one-year free trial of Apple TV+ to anyone who buys a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac, or iPod touch.


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Netflix CEO Says Apple TV+ and Disney+ Will Create ‘A Whole New World’ of ‘Tough Competition’

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings recently discussed what he thinks about the upcoming launch of new rivals Apple TV+ and Disney+, as well as Netflix's plans to retain subscriber interest after their launches (via Variety). According to Hastings, "it's a whole new world starting in November," referring to the November 1 launch of Apple TV+ and November 12 launch of Disney+.


The CEO said that it will be "tough competition" for Netflix, but the company will continue on course with its core strategy of offering bingeable TV shows and movies. This means that Netflix isn't planning on trialing drastically different content types, like Amazon Prime Video is with live sports, or experimenting with different release models.
“While we’ve been competing with many people in the last decade, it’s a whole new world starting in November…between Apple launching and Disney launching, and of course Amazon’s ramping up,” said Hastings, who also cited NBCUniversal’s coming Peacock service. “It’ll be tough competition. Direct-to-consumer [customers] will have a lot of choice.”
There are now numerous standalone streaming services that vie for customer attention, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Now, the upcoming HBO Max, CBS All Access, the upcoming NBC Peacock, Shudder, and many more.

Apple TV+ will launch November 1 with a handful of exclusive TV shows, including "The Morning Show," "Dickinson," "See," and "For All Mankind." Apple is making the service free for a full year for anyone who purchases an iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod Touch, or Mac. Apple TV+ will cost $4.99/month otherwise.

Disney+ will launch November 12 with a huge back catalog of Disney films and tv shows, divided among the company's major brands: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. To entice early adopters, Disney even offered a sign-up deal that got you three years of the streaming service for the price of two. This brought the price of the service to just under $4/month, compared to its $6.99/month regular price tag.

Amid the emergence of so many new streaming services, Hastings pointed out that production costs for streaming-based TV shows would rise, thanks to companies like Apple and Disney now also purchasing valuable production space in highly sought after areas. According to Hastings, "Someday 'The Crown' will look like a bargain," referring to its popular historical drama series that might not be the most expensive show ever made, but is among the most expensive to be produced by Netflix.


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Netflix Tests Human Curated ‘Collections’ Feature on iOS

Netflix is testing a human curated discovery feature on iOS called "Collections" that surfaces TV shows and movies the user might be interested to watch (via TechCrunch).

Collections in Netflix for iOS

Netflix says the content is curated by experts on its creative teams and that the collections are organized according to similar factors, such as genre, tone, story line, and character traits.

For users who opted into the test, the Collections option appears at the top-right of the Netflix app's homepage. Some collections currently showing up have names like "Let's Keep It Light," "Dark & Devious TV Shows," "Prizewinning Movie Picks," "Watch, Gasp, Repeat," and "Women Who Rule the Screen."

If a particular collection interests you, you can tap a Follow button and get updates when new TV shows and movies are added.



The human-led curation feature, first spotted by Jeff Higgins on Twitter, is a change of direction for Netflix's recommendations system, which typically selects content algorithmically based on the user's viewing history. When asked about the feature, Netflix told TechCrunch:
"We're always looking for new ways to connect our fans with titles we think they'll love, so we're testing out a new way to curate Netflix titles into collections on the Netflix iOS app. Our tests generally vary in how long they run for and in which countries they run in, and they may or may not become permanent features on our service."
As the above comment suggests, there's no word yet on if or when it will roll out to all users, or whether we'll see it on other platforms, like Netflix for Apple TV.

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Netflix Adds ‘Latest’ Section to Show Everything That’s New and Coming Soon

Netflix today introduced a new "Latest" section to its service, which is designed to highlight newly released titles and movies and TV shows that are coming soon.

According to Variety, the "Latest" section focuses specifically on just released titles, movies and TV shows coming in the current week, and movies and TV shows coming in the week after.


Upcoming titles are teased with a trailer, and Netflix users can opt to be reminded when a particular TV show or movie becomes available on the service. Netflix plans to update "Latest" multiple times a day, with content personalized for each Netflix user. This appears to be separate from the New Releases and Trending sections that Netflix offers, as it also includes upcoming content.

The new section is accessible via the Netflix app sidebar and has started rolling out on Smart TVs, streaming devices, and game consoles as of Monday.

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Netflix Tests Pop-Out Picture-in-Picture Player on Desktop

Netflix is testing a new pop-out picture-in-picture feature that's designed to let Netflix users watch videos in a small floating box that hovers above other applications, reports Engadget.

The pop-out player allows users to click a small icon at the bottom of the screen. Once the pop-out window appears, it can be resized and positioned anywhere on a computer's display.

Image via Engadget

The pop-out player is designed to stay on top of whatever else you're doing on your computer, and it can be closed by clicking the X in the player, choosing Back to Browse, or closing the Netflix tab. Subtitles are not currently supported in the pop-out browser.

Netflix appears to be testing the feature with a limited number of users at the current time, and Netflix has yet to announce the feature. Netflix did confirm to Engadget that the pop-out player is "only a test" in an image, so it's not clear when and if the player will roll out to additional users.

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Netflix Testing ‘Extras’ Tab in Mobile App With Feed of Photos and Videos Similar to Instagram

Netflix is testing a new feature in its mobile apps for iOS and Android, which aggregates trailers and photos for its various shows and movies in a feed that looks very similar to Instagram. A Netflix spokesperson confirmed the test in an email seen by Variety.

Image by Janko Roettgers via Variety

For the users in the test, they will see a new tab on the mobile Netflix app called "Extras." In this tab, users can scroll vertically to see new posts about Netflix originals like Stranger Things, Chambers, and See You Yesterday. Videos in the feed play automatically (without sound), and image galleries can be scrolled horizontally, just like on Instagram.

Posts in the Extras feed include options to share the content with friends, add the film or TV show to your Netflix list, and even remind you when the content launches if it's not out yet. Netflix said that this is all a way to "help fans connect more deeply with the titles they love."

Netflix has been inspired by other social media platforms in the past, last year updating its mobile apps with Stories-like "preview" bubbles that users can tap through to watch vertical trailers of Netflix originals. You can even post directly to Instagram Stories from Netflix thanks to a new integration that launched earlier this year.

But, like with any test, Netflix warned that the new Extras tab may not launch to everyone and could be scrapped.

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