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Disney+ will limit video quality for its wider European launch

Matt Brian
Managing Editor, UK
Disney+

Disney+ hasn't yet gone live for new customers across Europe, but already the streaming service is taking steps to reduce its impact on internet providers' infrastructure in light of the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, Disney Chairman Kevin Mayer confirmed that it will join Netflix, YouTube and Amazon in reducing its "overall bandwidth utilization by at least 25 percent" in all of the EU markets where Disney+ will launch on March 24th.

"In line with Disney's longstanding commitment to act responsibly, we are responding to the request of European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton to work together to ensure the smooth functioning of the broadband infrastructure. In anticipation of high consumer demand for Disney+, we are proactively instituting measures to lower our overall bandwidth utilisation by at least 25% in all of the markets launching Disney+ on March 24th," Mayer said. "In the coming days, we will be monitoring Internet congestion and working closely with Internet service providers to further reduce bitrates as necessary to ensure they are not overwhelmed by consumer demand."

Earlier this week, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton called on European citizens to limit their broadband usage during the coronavirus outbreak, particularly in regards to streaming. Breton used the hashtag #SwitchToStandard to ask consumers to switch their content to SD quality to help reduce overall bandwidth.

UK provider BT has already noted that while more people are staying home in order to self isolate, daytime traffic has increased up to 60 percent. However, it's still "only around half the average evening peak, and nowhere near the 17.5 Tb/s we have proved the network can handle," the company wrote. Disney's measures may help avoid reaching theoretical limits, but it appears ISPs may already have a handle on the surge.

Disney+ sign-ups opened in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain and Switzerland on January 21st, allowing fans to take advantage of a lower annual price. The "limited time low price offer" brings the yearly cost down to £49.99/€59.99 -- it typically costs £5.99/€6.99 a month or £59.99/€69.99 annually -- but will expire on March 23rd.

French users, however, will need to wait a further two weeks, after Disney confirmed the service will be delayed in the country. "To our French fans, the Disney+ service is coming, but at the request of the French government, we have agreed to postpone the launch until Tuesday, 7 April 2020," said Mayer.