Sustainability in Streaming: How Technological Innovation is Driving Environmental Impacts, improved User Experience in 2022

The global live streaming market is projected to reach $247 billion by 2027 as more consumers turn to OTT providers for live content. This is in addition to the billions of dollars that are already being generated by on-demand viewing of pre-recorded materials, which currently accounts for the majority of the content streamed online.

With such tremendous growth across the entire industry, consumers will not only have more options to satisfy their viewing needs, they will also be able to watch their favorite movies and TV across a wider range of devices.

Stefan Lederer headshot

Stefan Lederer is the Co-Founder and CEO of Bitmovin, a company that focuses on products, cloud services, and consulting in the area of adaptive HTTP streaming.

This will inevitably increase the ecological footprint of video, which is a far greater strain on the internet and the environment than people may realize. Researchers at MIT, Yale and Purdue University found that a single hour of streaming or video conferencing emits as much as 1,000 grams of carbon dioxide, uses 2-12 liters of water and requires a land area equal to a small tablet.

Burning one gallon of gasoline is worse (8,887 grams), but streaming video’s environmental footprint should not be ignored. According to data from Statista, 27% of the global population streams more than 10 hours of video every week.

This adds up to billions of hours of streamed content annually and an unexpectedly high amount of pollution. Now that the industry is starting to take notice, expect the ecological footprint of video to be a trend to watch in 2022. But that’s not the only trend emerging. OTT providers should also keep a close eye on the rising adoption of higher-efficiency codecs, as well as big consumer brands that indirectly enter the fray with their own exclusive content.

OTT providers are taking note of their environmental impact

We’re all aware of the CO2 footprint of driving a car or powering a home, but few may realize that the internet also comes with an environmental cost. Online video is the chief culprit, accounting for roughly 80% of all internet traffic. Consumers appreciate the on-demand functionality and watch-anywhere flexibility that streaming video provides. As more content moves to the internet, and as additional streaming services are introduced, this percentage will only increase.

Thus, it’s time to make some changes. People won’t accept a downgrade in quality, but we need to find new and creative ways to reduce the ecological footprint of video. One solution could involve the deployment of more efficient codecs. For example, if a new codec could reduce the amount of required bandwidth by 50%, CO2 emissions would be cut in half.

This would be a huge step forward in lowering video’s carbon footprint, especially at a time when the need for OTT content is likely to increase. While most discussions around computing and environmental impact are typically reserved for crypto, 2022 is going to be the year in which streaming video companies participate in the conversation.

Brands will gradually enter the fray

Today, people get the majority of their content from streaming video giants like Netflix. Tomorrow they may get some of it from an unexpected source: major consumer brands. Retail companies like Home Depot don’t necessarily intend to become media enterprises, but that may happen by default – if only from a marketing perspective – as they ramp up their content production. Video is a great way to connect with consumers, and by delivering content that is relevant to what they’re shopping for (ex: home repair/improvement materials), they may be more inclined to come back.

This is likely to set off an entire trend in which a large number of brands embark on their own streaming video journeys. We’ve already seen it happen in the fitness space – before COVID-19, video was an afterthought for most fitness-related companies. That changed the moment social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders were put into place.

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Peloton, in particular, enjoyed a sales increase of nearly 200% as people started working out at home, but this was only made possible by the OTT content available to every Peloton customer. This rapidly-expanding new media channel is creating unique opportunities for brands to leverage video to connect with customers in a meaningful manner while driving measurable sales results.

Higher quality, more efficient codecs are continuing to penetrate the market

Movies and shows are often filmed in 4K, but most streaming video services currently lack the capability to deliver content of this caliber, instead maxing out at 1080p. In many cases, in order to get the highest resolution possible, consumers are forced to buy the Blu-ray. That is unfathomable! Consumers pay good money for subscription streaming services and on-demand rentals and there is no reason why they should then have to pay more and acquire a physical disc to view the content in its original, intended quality.

That said, with hundreds of millions of flat screen TVs already sold, it’s not as if the hardware can be changed overnight. The only way for OTT providers to offer 4K content is by upgrading to more modern and advanced codecs.

Netflix has already done this and has been streaming higher-resolution videos for years, setting the standard for both the level of quality and overall expectations. Now the rest of the industry is expected to follow suit, which could lead to big changes and a greater push for 4K and HDR streaming in 2022.

Big changes are ahead

With so much traffic coming from online video streams, OTT providers will begin to take responsibility for their environmental impact. They’ll also begin to adopt new codecs and finally deliver the level of quality people want and expect when they stream the latest films and TV shows. In fact, new codecs could have a doubly powerful impact by reducing CO2 emissions while increasing resolution and content quality.

At the same time, streaming video stalwarts may encounter new competitors from big consumer brands that have realized the power and potential of content streaming. By creating content that’s relevant and resonates with its key audience, brands can strengthen their relationship with consumers and keep them coming back – building trust and familiarity that will, in turn, boost their sales and bottom line.

Stefan Lederer headshot
Stefan Lederer

Stefan Lederer is the CEO & Co-Founder of the back-end video software solutions provider, Bitmovin. He founded Bitmovin out of research & standardization around MPEG-DASH, building a developer go-to-market provider with video encoding, player, & analytics solutions for the OTT market that enhance viewer experience, optimizes customer operations & reduce time-to-market.

About Bitmovin:

Built for technical professionals in the OTT video market, Bitmovin’s software solutions are designed to optimize customer operations and reduce cost and time-to-market, resulting in the best viewer experience imaginable. This is achieved through Bitmovin’s unparalleled device reach, flexible integration, and commitment to supporting their customers.

Bitmovin raised $25 million in April in its Series C financing and has been at the forefront of industry innovation and all major developments in the digital video streaming industry. What started as research at University for Stefan, ended up becoming the world's first commercial adaptive streaming player and deployed the first software-defined encoding service that runs on any cloud platform. Bitmovin works with media companies across the globe to build innovative video products. To find out more, please visit www.bitmovin.com.

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