Prime Video gets quality cap to ease coronavirus-loaded networks

Amazon will throttle Prime Video streaming in an attempt to alleviate pressure on coronavirus-hammered European internet providers, the latest on-demand service to trim bitrates. The move comes after Netflix and YouTube confirmed that they would be addressing bandwidth use by their streaming, after EU officials asked for help ensuring that internet connections weren't overloaded during self-isolation.

The concern, voiced by Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the internal market earlier this week, was that a greater number of people working from home could put unexpected stress on ISPs. While remote working and streaming services were welcome during the COVID-19 pandemic, Breton explained, they also ran the risk of chewing through too much bandwidth.

Netflix was first to react, announcing that it would be lowering the bitrate used for its streaming in Europe for the next 30 days. While viewers will still get the resolution they paid for, it will be at a lower bitrate. There could be some visible loss of quality as a result.

YouTube joined in earlier today, confirming that it would be setting standard definition (SD) video as the default for viewers in Europe. Typically, YouTube would automatically adjust the settings to the highest possible resolution, according to the bandwidth available at the time.

Now, the Guardian reports, Amazon is weighing in. Like Netflix, it will be reducing streaming bitrates of Amazon Prime for its European customers. It's unclear how long that change will last.

"We support 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," an Amazon spokesperson confirmed. "Prime Video is working with local authorities and internet service providers where needed to help mitigate any network congestion, including in Europe, where we've already begun the effort to reduce streaming bitrates while maintaining a quality streaming experience for our customers."

According to the report, the BBC is currently in discussions about a similar change for its iPlayer on-demand service. Disney is apparently also weighing a possible change for Disney+, which is expected to launch in Europe and the UK next week.