Netflix, Hotstar, other apps lower video quality: What does this mean for you

Now that most of us are working from home due to coronavirus lockdown, guzzling large amount of internet data due to video conferencing, document collaboration and students’ online classes is not surprising. It is also not surprising for streaming companies like Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime video and others since we have started streaming more videos on these platforms than ever before. But handling millions of users at once that too each day can be a herculean task and so the streaming companies have taken a decision to lower the video resolution that is set by default on your smartphones.

According to the joint letter shared by the companies, the HD and ultra-HD resolution videos will now be switched to SD (Standard Definition) by default when streaming videos. The list of participants includes Sony, Google, Facebook, Viacom18, MX Player, Hotstar, Zee, Tiktok, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

But what does all this actually mean? We break it down for you.

Will the video streaming resolution stay at SD quality permanently?

No. According to the joint letter, the video resolution will be set to SD quality across apps as a default. You can always change the quality to HD or ultra-HD after opening the app, before streaming the video. Netflix however, confirmed a couple of days ago that it will be changing the bitrate of the videos which won’t change the resolution or the quality but will make a change minor enough to maintain the quality and have less internet pressure on servers.

SD quality means lower resolution, doesn’t have to do anything with the internet speed

Don’t worry, videos changing to SD quality doesn’t mean they will start buffering and will be a hindrance. On the other hand, SD quality videos should run more smoothly since the streaming data is way less as compared to what is used when streaming HD and ultra-HD video.

Why are they changing HD and ultra-HD to SD video quality by default?

Like we mentioned above, since most of us are working from home, the number of users have also spiked up for video streaming platforms and there’s only so many users the servers can handle. So, changing to SD resolution will mean less data streaming and less pressure on the servers. This in turn will mean stable streaming for all the users.

Will that make my HD and ultra-HD plan subscription useless?

No. If you have a HD or an ultra-HD plan, you can still view videos in that resolution. Only the default option, which until now was set to HD or ultra-HD based on your plan, will change to SD going forward.

Until when will the default option stay as SD?

It has been announced that this move is there until April 14, which is the same day when the 21 day lockdown period ends in India.

Will the companies change video quality to SD on all the devices?

No. As the letter confirms, this will only be for those streaming videos on cellular networks. This means that if you are streaming videos on your 4G internet data on to your smartphone, the default option will change to SD. If you are streaming videos on mobile, TV or a laptop using Wi-Fi connectivty, it won’t change a thing.


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