Disney+ drops Dolby Atmos as it throttles launch bandwidth

posted on Wednesday, 25th March 2020 by Steve May

home cinema  Dolby Atmos  Dolby Vision 

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New streaming service Disney+ made its eagerly awaited debut in the UK and across select European territories yesterday, but left some new subscribers less than immersed. Despite Dolby Atmos branding on its premium content, including the Star Wars movie franchise, apps appear to be limited to Dolby Digital 5.1 or two channel stereo.

Disney confirmed the situation, citing its decision to reduce bandwidth in line with other streaming services across Europe by a quarter.

The streamer advised subscribers ‘In light of the concerns expressed by government officials regarding the use of broadband services in this challenging time, we have instituted measures to lower bandwidth utilization, and in some circumstances streaming content in HD and UHD formats, including Dolby Atmos audio, will be limited or unavailable.’

Netflix has recently been followed by Apple, Amazon and YouTube in reducing bitrates to bring about a 25 per cent reduction on European and UK networks for 30 days.

"Despite increased data use on our network, we’re not at capacity, says Virgin Media..."

The move was prompted by European Union Commissioner Thierry Breton who originally asked for OTT streamers to revert to Standard Definition ‘when HD is not necessary.’

While no one would begrudge any move to reduce pressure if Internet infrastructure was under stress as a result of the current Covid-19 pandemic and changing work practices, ISPs continue to deny there are any issues.

Jeanie York, Virgin Media’s Chief Technology and Information Officer, commented: “Despite increased data use on our network, we’re not at capacity and are continuing to provide our customers with the ultrafast and reliable services they expect. The coronavirus pandemic has still not pushed up demand to the levels seen during recent computer game releases or when multiple premier league games were streamed simultaneously.”

Thankfully, Disney+ has managed to retain Dolby Vision for video on apps that support the standard. Disney+ accessed via Sky Q is HD only. Here’s wishing normal service is resumed as soon as possible.

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and Ideal Home (amongst others).

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