Cars may be blamed for being the most significant contributor to the total carbon emission, but your passion for video streaming can be more devastating for the environment. Here’s why and how.
As the popularity of streaming services continues to burgeon, the environmental impact of video encoding has taken centre stage as a significant contributing factor to the bedlam. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with streaming video have increased rapidly in recent years. Streaming one hour of video per week for a year can result in carbon emissions equivalent to driving a car for about a thousand miles.
Sustainability is becoming a critical factor in business, and broadcasting and streaming services are no exception. Investors, including BlackRock, have prioritised sustainable investing, expected to grow from almost $0.5tn in 2013 to around $2tn by 2028. Consumers are also more conscious of the carbon impact of the organisations they buy from and prefer sustainable sellers, which extends to their choice of streaming services.
There is, therefore, a pressing need for environmentally-friendly video encoding to reduce the carbon footprint of video streaming.
The carbon footprint of video streaming is complex to measure
First, it is essential to note that the carbon footprint of streaming video is complex and depends on several factors, such as the energy mix of the country where the streaming is taking place, the type of device used for streaming, and the video resolution. The IEA points out that it is crucial to consider these factors when comparing the carbon footprint of streaming video to other activities.
Irrespective, it stands to reason that this is a significant problem requiring a steadfast solution – considering the carbon footprint associated with their streaming processing solution and optimising processes to reduce power consumption by implementing best practices. Two things that can help to get the highest possible efficiency are (i) the introduction of new codecs and (ii) encoders using standards-compliant algorithms. Both can work together to reduce bitrate and bandwidth consumption, which leads to a lower carbon footprint.
Industry solutions were previously chosen mainly for their performance. Still, meeting performance criteria now contributes to improving sustainability by making video delivery more efficient and less wasteful in the use of resources. An elastic CDN can also enable the system to bring the most famous content to the edge, away from the central hub, ensuring viewers get quick access to the content they want. Shared workflows and resources and just-in-time packagers contribute to reducing bandwidth requirements, thereby increasing sustainability.
Several video software firms, such as MediaKind, have developed innovative GPU-based video encoding technologies that significantly reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions to address this problem. Their technology uses specialised hardware to perform tasks more efficiently than traditional software-based encoding solutions. This approach enables MediaKind to reduce the servers required to process video content, resulting in significant energy savings and a smaller carbon footprint.
MediaKind’s technology has been shown to reduce energy consumption by up to 40% and carbon emissions by up to 70% compared to traditional software-based encoding solutions. In addition to its environmental benefits, MediaKind’s GPU-based encoding technology offers significant cost savings for content providers.
Broadcasters and video service providers can ensure their services become more sustainable by adopting an end-to-end solution that reduces storage, bandwidth and hardware requirements. This will result in significant energy savings across the three ‘Scopes’ the Greenhouse Gas Protocol outlined.
By making video delivery more sustainable, organisations in the broadcast and streaming sector can significantly reduce carbon emissions, helping mitigate the risks posed by climate change.