Advanced Television

Report: CPE & video demand impacting sustainability

December 3, 2020

What is described as the “staggering” disparity between the energy demands of emerging consumer devices and immersive video experiences has spotlighted the need for more environmentally sustainable choices across the video entertainment industry, according to a joint study from mobile and video technology research and development company InterDigital, and market research firm Futuresource. They suggest that sustainability will define businesses of the 21st century and require consumers and businesses to embrace sustainable practices to offset the growing carbon footprint of the video industry.

The pair’s report, The Sustainable Future of Video Entertainment, analyses the energy demands of the video entertainment industry, from the production, delivery, and consumption of feature films, video games, and other video experiences, and examines emerging solutions to mitigate the environmental impact across the video value chain. The findings suggest that sustainability must be integrated into all aspects of the video entertainment industry, from research to manufacturing to supply chain and logistics, to be most effective.

“This has been the year of video, as the world’s circumstances have aligned with a ubiquity of consumer devices and more time spent looking at our screens,” noted Henry Tirri, CTO of InterDigital. “As our dependence on these devices and experiences grows, so too will our impact on the environment become more consequential. Through InterDigital’s cutting-edge research, development of video standards, compression solutions, and more, we’re doing our part to stay on top of the industry’s growing carbon footprint and develop solutions for a more sustainable future.”

Limited awareness of the environmental impact of video and consumer devices, and lack of access to more sustainable choices, are often cited as key factors driving the video entertainment industry’s growing carbon footprint. The report highlights several statistics for the video industry’s staggering energy dependence, and emerging sustainable solutions, including:

  • By 2022, video viewing will account for 82 per cent of all Internet traffic, with overall Internet traffic accounting for more than 1 per cent of global emissions.
  • An 8K TV uses more than double the electricity as a 4K TV. Still, many users are unaware that 8K TVs account for 108gCO2e per hour of emissions, 2.6 times higher than for a 4K set.
  • By 2023, roughly 30 million 8K TVs will consume 50 per cent more energy than the 343 million tablets worldwide. Consumer engagement with sustainability will spur greater scrutiny in device choice.
  • In 2019, televisions consumed an estimated 251Terawatt hours (TWh) of energy, and consumer electronic devices consumed 379 TWh of energy. Conversely, data centers for streaming video consumed 2,460 Gigawatt hours of energy.
  • Data centres are responsible for roughly 3 per cent of global electricity use. Data centers are integral to housing content for the video entertainment industry but also leave a high carbon footprint. The massive impact of data centers on global energy reserves highlights the need for a green transformation of the ICT sector.
  • Gaming consoles may become more energy efficient as game time increases. The Xbox Series X is over twice as efficient as an Xbox One. PlayStation 5 will achieve a reduction in the console’s total carbon footprint from 45gCO2e per hour in 2019 to 36gCO2e per hour in 2023, per device. While the number of PlayStation consoles is expected to grow 20 per cent between 2019 and 2023, overall power usage of devices will only increase by 4 per cent.
  • The popularity of video subscription services is responsible for more than 951 million Subscription Video on Demand (SVoD) subscribers. Of the leading subscription services, Netflix has 18 per cent market share, while Amazon Prime holds 10 per cent.

The report suggests that the video entertainment industry still faces barriers to achieving sustainability, including a lack of knowledge of the video entertainment industry’s carbon footprint, the assumption that sustainable practices are prohibitively expensive, and the relative absence of regulations and standards to monitor the industry’s carbon emissions. Despite these challenges, the video ecosystem has also pursued new efforts to achieve a more sustainable future. These efforts include government programmes, such as the European Green Deal to encourage sustainable energy practices across industry sectors, as well as industry certifications such as EnergyStar to reduce greenhouse gases and inefficient energy use. At one end of the video supply chain, device manufacturers have begun to pursue more sustainable manufacturing and device recycling, while innovations in user interface design give consumers the power to choose more sustainable viewing options.

“The data in this report highlights the importance of continued technical progress in streaming, networking, compression and device technology, but also the need for individuals to make responsible choices,” added Tirri. “For instance, an individual watching an information broadcast on a 4K TV can lessen their energy footprint by almost 40 per cent simply by choosing to watch the content in 720p – and even more by choosing to watch it on a tablet or their smartphone. With the awareness that studies like the InterDigital/Futuresource study will bring, individuals will be empowered to understand and make those choices.”

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