InterDigital and Futuresource release video sustainability report

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020
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InterDigital/Futuresource Video Sustainability Report: Devices, Data Centers Drive Power Footprint as Video Grows to 82% of Internet Traffic

  • Report examines energy footprint of broadcast, streaming, gaming industries; points to individual strategies for moderating impact

WILMINGTON, Del. — 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 released today by InterDigital, Inc. (NASDAQ: IDCC), a mobile and video technology research and development company, and leading market research firm Futuresource, 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 report, “The Sustainable Future of Video Entertainment,” analyzes 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. As our dependence on these devices and experiences grows, so too will our impact on the environment become more consequential,” said Henry Tirri, CTO, InterDigital. “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% of all internet traffic, with overall internet traffic accounting for more than 1% 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% 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 centers are responsible for roughly 3% 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% between 2019 and 2023, overall power usage of devices will only increase by 4%.
  • 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% market share, while Amazon Prime holds 10%.

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 programs, like the European Green Deal to encourage sustainable energy practices across industry sectors, as well as industry certifications like 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,” Tirri added. “For instance, an individual watching an information broadcast on a 4K TV can lessen their energy footprint by almost 40% 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.”

InterDigital leads industry players in developing cutting-edge video compression standards that achieve lower bandwidth and energy consumption without sacrificing high-quality, low latency video experiences, and also crafting innovative solutions and AI algorithms that enable us to enjoy increasingly immersive experiences with a reduced energy impact.

The InterDigital-Futuresource paper is a part of InterDigital’s sustainability research and thought leadership initiative dedicated to addressing energy consumption and environmental sustainability across all sectors of the technology ecosystem. InterDigital’s sustainability microsite includes the latest research and white papers exploring the impact of energy sustainability in the evolution of advanced wireless, video, IoT proliferation, and more.