Study: Unicast Streaming Will Increase Video Energy Usage

Comcast Energy efficiency
(Image credit: Comcast)

BRISTOL, U.K.—While media and tech firms have made notable progress in recent years in reducing the energy consumption of the video industry and its impact on the climate, a new study from Rethink Technology Research suggests that those positive trends may soon reverse, thanks to the energy intensive nature of the global streaming industry and its unicast architecture. 

By highlighting the impact that unicast, or one to one, streaming architectures are likely to have on energy consumption in the video business, the report implicitly finds that broadcasting and multicasting technologies that work on a mass scale could help ameliorate the problem. 

“It appears that our industry is at a turning point when it comes to the energy use required for video distribution and consumption across the world,” the researchers said. “The decline of pay TV – cable in particular – and its power-hungry network infrastructure means that for the past few years, the energy consumption of video overall has been tapering downwards.”

“However, a rise in OTT video consumption means that streaming infrastructure is scaling up, while viewing is fragmenting across a broadening range of consumer electronics,” the report noted. “Both trends are creating demand for energy that has already overtaken that of pay TV networks, and will soon begin to reverse the downward slope of the current global energy requirements for video distribution and consumption.”

“By 2027, we expect that total energy consumption of our industry is set to start ticking back up, fueled by OTT viewing and the subsequent behaviors that it encourages,” the researchers concluded. “This is largely driven by the current OTT viewing paradigm of unicast delivery. Much greater efficiencies could be achieved with the embrace of multicast, as well as more efficient caching technologies.”

A download of the full executive summary of the report can be found here (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Rethink Technology Research)
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George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.