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How sustainable is the future of video entertainment?

InterDigital publishes white paper on the importance of sustainability as the energy footprint of the video entertainment industry grows

By 2022, video viewing is projected to account for 82 per cent of all internet traffic, according to Cisco’s Visual Network Index. Since internet use accounts for up to 4 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions (and quickly rising), that places a considerable amount of responsibility on the video entertainment industry to move to more sustainable practices. InterDigital’s new white paper, The Sustainable Future of Video Entertainment, breaks down the most significant contributing factors to the video ecosystem’s carbon footprint and highlights the moves businesses can make to reduce their environmental impact.

Created in partnership with Futuresource Consulting, the report analyses the entire video value chain, from production to broadcast and consumption. Among the major considerations are data centres, whose combined power amounts to 416 Terawatts, equivalent to around 3 per cent of all electricity generated annually. While corporations such as Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have committed to transitioning to 100 per cent renewable energy, efforts to improve the mechanical and electrical infrastructure of data centres are shown to only produce marginal improvements. Real measures to mitigate environmental harm must focus on the move towards IT, explains the InterDigital white paper, by increasing server utilisation and the use of virtualisation for multi-tenancy in data centres.

In the streaming sector, sustainability initiatives should emphasise CDN efficiency, server workloads and optimised network usage, as the white paper makes clear. Hulu employs Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) CloudFront CDN to deliver over 75,000 VoD programmes to 32 million subscribers, relocating its video data storage facility to a data centre in Las Vegas running on 100 per cent renewable energy. Meanwhile Netflix invests in carbon offsetting programmes, as its energy consumption far outpaced its user growth in 2019, illustrating the impact of video streaming on the environment. The report notes the importance of transparency in the sector for curtailing this consumption.

On the consumer end, the white paper describes that as devices grow in resolution, so to does their energy consumption; for the 30 million 8K TVs expected to be installed by 2023, energy consumption for video streaming will be 50 per cent higher than the 343 million tablets used worldwide. Initiatives such as Energy Star from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are designed to educate consumers on energy efficiency and could see further acceleration in the post-Trump era. 

Looking to the future, 5G presents opportunities for broadcasters to relay live video directly to production studios. A live event that would have previously required eight fixed cameras could instead be covered by four 5G cameras, while production engineers can work from remote studios rather than travelling across the country, thereby offering ample possibilities for increased sustainability. Machine learning and AI provide further potential in their application during video encoding, reducing file sizes and bit rates without sacrificing visual quality, resulting in energy savings in both the data centre and the receiving device.

InterDigital details these emerging solutions and many more in its white paper, outlining an end-to-end approach to sustainability that can make the video entertainment industry a driving force in protecting the planet for future generations.

Download The Sustainable Future of Video Entertainment white paper today.