YouTube Is Lowering Default Video Quality Worldwide for 30 Days in Response to Pandemic

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In response to usage changes amid the covid-19 pandemic, YouTube has announced it’s reducing the default video quality on all videos globally for 30 days.

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The change will see the default setting for videos fall from high definition to standard definition, the company said, and will start rolling out “gradually” beginning Tuesday. Users will still be able to manually change the video quality setting to HD, but the company said the change is intended to reduce stress on the system during the ongoing covid-19 pandemic.

“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,” a spokesperson for Google, which owns YouTube, said in a statement to Gizmodo. “Last week, we announced that we were temporarily defaulting all videos on YouTube to standard definition in the EU. Given the global nature of this crisis, we will expand that change globally starting today.”

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Last week, streaming giant Netflix agreed to reduce bit rates in Europe—also for 30 days—in order to lessen stress to the internet’s infrastructure. At the time, Netflix said in a statement that it expected the move would “reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members.”

Given YouTube’s measure, Gizmodo reached out to Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu, to ask about whether they planned to reduce the default streaming quality to standard definition in the U.S.

A spokesperson for Netflix said the company was introducing a 25 percent reduction in network traffic in Australia, India, and countries in Latin America. The company had not rolled out a similar initiative in the U.S. as of this writing but said that it was continuing to work with governments and service providers to adjust as necessary.

An Amazon spokesperson, meanwhile, told Gizmodo the company supports 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. Prime Video is working with local authorities and Internet Service Providers where needed to help mitigate any network congestion, such as in Europe where we’ve already begun the effort to reduce streaming bitrates while maintaining a quality streaming experience for our customers.”

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Added comment from Amazon.

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Maybe advertisers on Gizmodo and other sites will stop using autoplay video+sound ads to conserve bandwidth, like the one that just played on this very article? (Hint: I’m not holding my breath.)