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Facebook, Hotstar, Netflix, TikTok to reduce video quality amid COVID-19 pandemic

Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, SonyLIV, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, Zee5, ALT Balaji, Voot, and MX Player decided to collectively limit their utilisation of Indian telcos’ bandwidth after a video call yesterday. This comes after the Cellular Operators Association of India wrote a letter to the government and streaming services urging that their traffic on Indian telcos’ networks be reduced. The streaming companies put out a press release today announcing their decision. “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. These voluntary measures will be in effect until April 14. All participants are immediately taking measures,” the statement said.

The companies said they would either reduce the bitrate on their videos, or default to standard definition quality. In any case, streaming video from these companies will look a little worse in the coming month. You can read these streaming services’ statements here.

Hotstar, India’s largest streaming player after YouTube, said it will limit bitrates on videos, two days after saying that its data use was already limited for most customers.

A Hotstar spokesperson told MediaNama that this change will also affect Premium subscribers, who make up a small portion of the service’s user base.

It is unclear just how much this change will contribute to reducing bandwidth congestion, or if the congestion is a problem that telcos are incapable of handling themselves in the first place. In any case, streaming services have clearly decided to err on the side of caution (and perhaps of political prudence).

Nikhil adds: oddly enough, this press release is signed off as being from “The Digital Industry”. Frankly, it’s quite presumptuous of Sony, Google, Facebook, Viacom18, Amazon Prime Video, Zee, Tiktok, Netflix, MX Player and Hotstar to refer to themselves as “The Digital Industry”. It’s as if MakeMyTrip, Naukri, Paytm, or even Reddit don’t exist.

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I guess that’s how things are these days. Just recently, 5 players were trying to represent an entire online media and entertainment ecosystem, and push for an online content regulation mechanism.

Written By

I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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