Social platforms cut streaming quality as ‘social distancing’ wages on

Advertisers could soon be feeling the effects of reduced speeds in the U.S., if they haven’t already.

Internet traffic is up, CPMs are down, and media platforms are pivoting to adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Media giants across the globe are hurriedly making adjustments to keep their platforms stable and functioning during the massive surge in traffic. As a result, major platforms in the EU – Facebook, Netflix, Disney+, among others – are reducing video bitrates or defaulting to lower qualities to make way for the influx.

The push to downgrade streaming quality has been primarily focused in Europe with regulatory mandates to reduce network strain. But the U.S. might not be far behind – and advertisers will likely feel the impact.

Facebook & Instagram. Facebook recently announced it would be temporarily downgrading video streaming quality on its platform and on Instagram for users in the EU. A spokesperson from Facebook told Reuters that the move will help “alleviate any potential network congestion.” Marketing Land has not yet received comment from Facebook, so it’s still unclear as to when (or if) Facebook will follow suit in the U.S.

YouTube. Just a week after YouTube announced it would be reducing streaming quality for its EU users, the company has now confirmed it will cut streaming quality globally for a month. As of this week, YouTube videos around the world will load with the default standard definition (480p) quality. Users can opt to manually select a higher quality setting per video, but upon first loading, videos will no longer default to the high-res standard. It’s an extension of YouTube’s policy in Europe, where regulators have asked major streaming services to reduce their bandwidth usage.

Amazon. The e-commerce giant is also making efforts to downgrade video quality in Europe in an attempt to ease network strain. A spokesperson from Amazon told The Guardian that the company is “working with local authorities and internet service providers where needed to help mitigate any network congestion.”

Why we care

While it’s still uncertain when – or if – there will be broadband restrictions in the U.S., it’s likely that video streaming platforms will still make adjustments to offset traffic loads. Brands in the U.S. currently delivering high-quality, high-budget video campaigns will want to pay close attention to ad performance over the next several weeks.

In the meantime, use the downtime to build a “worst-case scenario” strategy in case your video ad performance starts dropping due to buffering issues. If this happens, prepare to test alternative non-video creatives and potentially pause campaigns in the short-term.


About The Author

Taylor Peterson is Third Door Media’s Deputy Editor, managing industry-leading coverage that informs and inspires marketers. Based in New York, Taylor brings marketing expertise grounded in creative production and agency advertising for global brands. Taylor’s editorial focus blends digital marketing and creative strategy with topics like campaign management, emerging formats, and display advertising.

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