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Bringing Sustainability to the Broadcasting and Video Streaming Sector

sustainability
(Image credit: Haliburton)

Sustainability—the concept of adapting to environmental changes—is increasingly moving to the forefront of business strategy in numerous sectors. In the broadcast and streaming industry, business and technology were for many years the driving factors when it came to choosing a technology partner, but sustainability has now become the third key pillar.

BlackRock, among other significant investment organizations, now combines traditional investment approaches with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) insights to deliver both financial and purpose-driven outcomes. Sustainable investing is on the rise: annual cash flow into sustainable funds more than doubled between 2019 and 2020, increasing tenfold since 2018.

Now more than ever investors will refuse to invest in a project or organization that does not have a strong alignment with sustainability, and this trend shows no signs of slowing over the coming years. Broadcast and streaming companies therefore run the significant risk of missing out on substantial investment if they do not commit to sustainable services and practices.

The State of Sustainability
The sustainability pressure is not just coming from investors, but end users as well, with market awareness increasing as prominent content providers such as Netflix come under the media spotlight for their sustainability practices. The streaming service provider generated roughly 1.1 million metric tons of CO2 last year, equivalent to the yearly emissions from approximately 240,000 passenger cars. 

As consumers gain greater awareness of the carbon impact of the organization they do business with, they’re now more likely to scope the market for more sustainable options, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The EY Future Consumer Index suggests that 43% of global consumers want to buy more from organizations that benefit society, even if that means spending more to do so. This is likely to also apply to streaming services as knowledge of their role in climate change grows. While awareness is growing, the broadcast and streaming sector has so far made little progress from a regulatory standpoint, with little in the way of sustainability targets other than the general CO2 emission reduction objectives delivered at the governmental level. 

However, change is on the horizon, with the development of a new sustainable association showing promise. Greening of Streaming, of which Ateme is a founding member, is a new association that brings together organizations in the streaming industry to share best practices and drive greater energy efficiency across the sector. 

Globally, broadcasters and streaming service providers need to adopt sustainable practices within their processes to ensure real change can be achieved. Today, there are several supporting technologies and solutions that can enable them to become green in their operations.

Achieving Business Growth by Going Green
Critical to achieving more sustainable practices is reducing the carbon footprint associated with a streaming processing solution, and this needs to form the basis of an organizational strategy. Businesses must also optimize processes to reduce the power consumption of hardware and software by implementing best practices.

The implantation of new codecs can play a key role in enabling the best possible efficiency in operations. New codecs can reduce bitrate and bandwidth consumption, leading to a lower carbon footprint. This is because less storage, streaming capability and caching is required. 

This strategy does, however, have immediate consequences. Deploying new codecs requires new devices, which has its own implications in terms of physical components and how this adds to carbon emissions. It means that organizations need to take additional steps to make an immediate difference and ensure sustainability in their practices.

How the CDN and Shared Resources Play Their Part
Industry solutions used to be chosen based solely on how well they could perform. This includes aspects such as the number of channels that could be produced on a particular server for encoding, or the hit ratio of the content delivery network (CDN). 

While these performance criteria are still applicable and remain crucial to market competitiveness, meeting them also contributes to improving sustainability: it makes video delivery more efficient and less wasteful in the use of resources. A reduction in bitrate via improved compression techniques, for example, enables more channels on a single server, and reduces bandwidth consumption throughout the CDN. By also optimizing CDN caching, a greener service is facilitated.

In some cases, it pays to bring the most in-demand content to the edge, distant from the central hub. This gives viewers quicker access to the content they most wish to view. While beneficial for viewers, this also means that the content will no longer need to be delivered from the central location, which helps to reduce the necessary bandwidth and costs, enabling more sustainable practices.

Reducing bandwidth requirements is also made possible by just-in-time packagers, as well as shared workflows and resources. A single workflow can be used for both live and time-shifted video, meaning each profile only needs to be sent and stored once. 

Technology solutions allow streaming service providers to deliver content with just-in-time processing, ensuring content is processed only when it is needed by viewers. By processing on-demand, the need for hardware resources and CPU storage is reduced, leading to lower power consumption and increased sustainability of the service.

Joining the Climate Change Battle
Achieving truly sustainable services is a work in progress for many organizations, but broadcasters and video service providers can take significant steps forward by harnessing an end-to-end solution that enables a reduction in storage, bandwidth and hardware requirements. 

Doing so will allow them to achieve energy savings that cover the three main “Scopes” identified in the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, which details the areas of environmental contributions of video compression and streaming solutions suppliers. As investors and viewers combine to place greater scrutiny on the industry, the opportunity to make video delivery more sustainable enables organizations to reduce carbon emissions and play their part in the war against climate change.

Rémi Beaudouin

Rémi Beaudouin is Chief Strategy Officer for Ateme.