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Disney postpones French Disney+ rollout as major streamers agree to reduce bandwidth usage

The roll-out of Disney+ has been delayed across France in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, following a request from the country’s government concerned about the increasing strain on broadband services.

The much-anticipated service had been due to launch in France on 24 March, in line with numerous other European countries including Ireland, the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. However, it will now not go live in France until 7 April.

Kevin Mayer, chairman of direct-to-consumer & international at Walt Disney, said the new streamer “is coming, but at the request of the French government, we have agreed to postpone the launch until Tuesday, 7 April 2020.”

Last week, Netflix agreed to reduce its bandwidth usage across Europe as the continent battles to stay online amidst the coronavirus pandemic, and both Amazon and Apple have now said they will do likewise.

On Wednesday, European Union (EU) internal market and services commissioner – and former France Télécom CEO – Thierry Breton tweeted that he had spoken to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings about ensuring an adequate amount of bandwidth is left available and urged users to “#SwitchToStandard definition when HD is not necessary.”

Following that call, the streamer confirmed that it would take measures in order to make sure that operators are not overwhelmed and that those working from home will be able to continue to work efficiently.

A spokesperson for Netflix said: “Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days. We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members.”

Similarly, a spokesperson for Amazon Prime Video said: “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. 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.”

While internet speeds have reportedly held up during the pandemic, Akamai estimates that there has already been a marked increase in global traffic. In several of the countries that were impacted the earliest by COVID-19 (China, Korea, Japan, and Italy), the firm saw traffic growth rates that averaged 25% higher over the last month than the rest of the world during that same time frame.

For the duration of the pandemic, the EU and the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) have said that they will set up a system that monitors traffic surges throughout the 27 countries within the union.