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Is Online Video Streaming Killing the Internet – and the Environment?

Video service providers must explore sustainable ways to deliver streaming video content without sacrificing quality.

November 20, 2020 4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What comes to mind when the topic of “online video consumption” gets brought up? Do you immediately think of streaming platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo? Do you think of the ever-popular social networks, such as Tik Tok, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc? Perhaps you think of those Netflix / Hulu / HBO Now marathons? Then again, it’s not all fun like watching live gameplay on Twitch – many of us only have time for serious usage of online video. In these post-pandemic days, you might only have the bandwidth for online classes, online conferences / events, and maybe a dash of online fitness.

I’m sure you’re catching my drift. It’s pointless to say we need to tone it down because online video consumption has become a part of life. But video services providers must step up and consider sustainable ways to deliver while meeting the demands of their consumers.

A heavy weight on the Internet and the environment

This astronomical rate of video consumption worldwide (which happens to be one million minutes per second) is taking a toll on the Internet. By 2022, online videos are expected to take up more than 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic, which is 15 times higher than it was in 2017.

Now you might be thinking, so what? After all, we’re paying a pretty penny for the best Internet plans and video streaming services we can afford. That’s true, but it also comes at its own cost, in the form of the collective carbon footprint.

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The harmful effects of video streaming are not visible to the degree of emissions from factories, but it is there, and it is intense. In fact, data centers presently contribute more global emissions than the aviation industry. Each time we stream content, data has to travel through a vast network of cables, routers, data centers, each of which consumes a huge amount of energy. That energy is generated from electricity, which is a by-product of burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil. In turn, this produces a lot of harmful carbon dioxide. To put this into perspective, the hit Netflix thriller Birdbox was streamed 80 million times worldwide. That alone was the equivalent of driving over 146 million miles and emitting just above 66 million kg of CO2. To put that into context, it is equal to driving from London to Istanbul and back 38,879 times.

Related: Watched Everything on Netflix? If You Love Classic Movies, You’ll Love FlixFling.

A heavy weight on the industry

Video service providers are well aware of the fact that online video generates 300 million tons of CO2 a year, however, the demand for greater quality of streams is also going up dramatically. Customers are investing in TVs and smart devices capable of showing 4K and 8K, while advertisers are paying top dollar for slots with high-resolution content. Video streaming companies find themselves consistently scrambling to avoid network crashes due to the high and heavy traffic, which therefore increases distribution costs, which ultimately get passed onto the customer.

For service providers, the added weight of the post-pandemic boom in video consumption essentially made business processes a daily struggle to stay afloat while keeping up with demands for greater quality and quantity. Through it all, they are well aware of the need to bring down the increasingly unsustainable economic and environmental costs of managing this much data, but most haven’t been able to explore solutions to these problems.

The solution: Compressing videos while keeping the quality

The most modern solution to this very modern problem is the ability to compress videos while keeping the quality of the content intact. This is entirely possible with solutions such as iSIZE, a software solution that uses AI to optimize visual quality while saving video bitrate during encoding. This reduces the strain on overburdened networks while reducing carbon footprint and cutting the ballooning operational costs of data centers and streaming industries. Their AI technology for intelligent video precoding delivers up to 25 percent reduction in bitrate and delivery costs of high-quality video.

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The ability for video service providers to continuously provide the endless streaming of 4K and 8K content while reducing related costs and energy consumption is a win on all fronts, especially when done on top of any existing codec gains. There is no time like the present for service providers to get on board and make their offering sustainable for the sake of operational costs, and in the name of social responsibility.