COVID-19: Google, OTT players to stream only SD content

Google, Netflix,Hotstar, TikTok and others to cease HD content in India over coronavirus

Google, Sony, Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and others have unanimously announced to stream content in SD to reduce the burden on telecommunication infrastructure in India till April 14.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus in India, announced a nationwide lockdown for 21 starting March 25. 

Except for the emergency services, transportation, and sale of essential food items, the rest of the commercial activities will cease to work till April 14. With most of the 1.3 billion people forced to stay home, several private employees are asked to work online, while children and college students are relying on the cellular internet for entertainment and e-classes to improve skill-sets.

This apparently will pose huge stress on the cellular infrastructure, as massive amounts of internet traffic may cause an outage and this would cut down communication between people and also they would not be able to get access to any government announcement on social media platforms.

Now, Over-The-Top (OTT) content providers, in a bid to reduce the internet congestion, have unanimously decided to cutdown HD (1080p & 720p) bitrate to SD (480p) until April 14.

"All companies from digital industry have decided upon temporarily defaulting HD & ultra-HD streaming to SD content or offering only SD content, at bitrates no higher than 480p on cellular networks until April 14," multimedia and digital service providers said in a joint statement.

"The digital industry has decided to act immediately in the larger national and consumer interest and to ensure the robustness of the cellular network," the OTT companies added.

The decision was taken on March 24 during the OTT and digital industry's virtual conference meeting helmed by Uday Shankar, Chairman, Star & Disney India.

The meeting was attended by regional heads of Hotstar, Sony, Google, ALTBalaji, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Facebook, Viacom18, Zee, Tiktok, and MX Player.

"The testing times that we are experiencing today, require each one of us to stay united, resilient and restrained to overcome this pandemic. The current scenario demands social distancing and Work from Home that has resulted in an all-time high internet consumption. Amidst the surge in video consumption and the subsequent directives issued by DOT and COAI, we are already on the path to expedite steps that lessen the pressure on the Telecom Infrastructure. We are encouraging our viewers to stay safe in self-isolation for which we shall continue to serve quality entertainment at the most optimized data usage. We are constantly working towards reducing the bit rate for our streams and resolving content resolution so that our subscribers during this phase can enjoy our content without buffering. As a call to action and urging our subscribers to make the switch, ALTBalaji is sending them reminders asking them to move to SD (Standard Definition) from HD (High Definition). As a responsible platform, we will endeavour to do our best to support and ease the infrastructure stress,” Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO ALTBalaji and Group COO Balaji Telefilms, said to DH.

The announcement comes days after  Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which members such as Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone-Idea, and associate member ACT, had requested Department of Telecom, to send a directive to OTT players --Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Sony Liv, ALTBalaji, and YouTube, among others to reduce the content quality from HD to SD so that it doesn't burden the cellular network infrastructure.

In a related development, Disney Plus was scheduled to make its India debut as Disney+Hotstar on March 29, the inaugural day of the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Now, it has been postponed indefinitely.

“We recently announced that Disney+ would launch in India through the Hotstar service in conjunction with the beginning of the Indian Premier League cricket season. Given the delay of the season, we have made the decision to briefly pause the roll-out of Disney+ and will announce a new revised premiere date for the service soon,” Uday Shankar, President - The Walt Disney Company APAC and Chairman, Star & Disney India said to DH.  

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