Netflix streaming quality seems to have halved or more
Netflix was reportedly going to lower its streaming quality across Europe by 25%, but it appears that the bit rates being served to customers may have dropped a lot more possibly by more than 50%.
For example at several points during 6 Underground the 4K HDR stream was seen to drop to 720 and 1440 resolutions at times but for the majority of the time it seemed to hold the ideal 2160 resolution but with an low bit rate of 7.62 Mbps. Usually we would expect a bit rate of 15 Mbps or more for 4K HDR content.
For HD content the drop is from around the normal 4 to 5 Mbps to 1.79 Mbps and in some scenes this was dropping to below 1 Mbps. At these sort of bit rates you might find SD content on Freeview is of the same or better quality and the HD Freeview channels are very likely to be visibly sharper.
The reason for the original 25% bit rate drop was to protect ISP network loads at peak times but as yet in the UK none of the fixed line providers have reported any problems and we have not seen any evidence of speed problems from speed tests. With streaming half the bitrate this suggests that either Netflix has pressure applied by some ISP in Europe to further drop bit rates and worryingly they've applied this across all their services in Europe or there may be some capacity issues on the CDN clusters that Netflix use.
The video streams are not buffering or showing blocks of pixels, but there is a general loss of sharpness in dynamic scenes. Ensuring that broadband does not break en-masse is worthwhile we would make rather have seen the call for changes in bit rate to be approached on an ISP by ISP rather than across a whole continent.