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Why the streaming industry needs to embrace sustainability initiatives

Sustainability in the media world is most likely an initiative undertaken by IT or facilities teams, but this article argues that change programmes should include more stakeholders in the decision-making process, with possibly a matrixed structure across offices of the CTO, CRO, and even the products team. “This will enable greater alignment of sustainability initiatives,” says the author, who lists the questions the CRO and products teams should be ready to answer for a sustainability project led by the office of the CTO.

Alex Beach, Business & Product Development, EasyBroadcast – North America
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Sustainability is not a term often used in the context of today’s complicated media landscape.  In fact, sustainability in the media world is most likely an initiative undertaken by IT or facilities teams. I would argue, however, that should change to include more stakeholders in the decision-making process.

Science has proven that climate change is real. Corporate sustainability is a growing and an important global trend for all industries, including media and entertainment. Whether through implementation of carbon-neutral content production efforts, use of emission-free heating and cooling systems for broadcast servers, or even the commitment to educate staff across media organizations, sustainability is imperative.

However, there are challenges to implementing green or sustainable strategies. Although several companies, both large and small, have chartered environmental and social governance initiatives, there are a few key main reasons why sustainability programmes overall lack prevalence. First, there is no ROI, so no budget is available. A second argument is that it’s hard to measure the impact. While this can present challenges, it is not an insurmountable task.


Follow the consumer

Global consumers are conscious of sustainability trends. For example, according to a study commissioned by IBM and the National Retail Federation, nearly 70% of those surveyed believe brands should be environmentally friendly. Further, a recent study from enviro-tech firm GreenPrint reports that 78% of people are more likely to purchase products that are clearly labeled as eco-friendly, and 75% of millennials would be willing to pay a premium for the same products.

So how does all this tie into the new media landscape? Simply put — it’s critical to follow the consumer. Imagine for a moment a technology with the ability to simultaneously improve the consumer streaming experience and reduce carbon footprint. Such a technology could have the potential to change the narrative about sustainable products with little to no ROI. Additionally, a LEED certification visible on an application or website home page could help drive a positive public perception of a media company.


Collaboration is key

But a lot of questions remain: How do you implement such a technology? Who is the decision-maker? How much input should come from a company’s revenue-generating business units? Does the technology, engineering, and operations group that is responsible for implementing sustainable infrastructures take the lead? Or is it the office of the COO, who may be ultimately responsible for environmental sustainability? This is where things get tricky.

Silos exist in most organizations. In the context of consumer experience and sustainability in streaming, however, it makes sense to consider a matrixed structure across offices of the CTO, CRO, and even the products team. This will enable greater alignment of sustainability initiatives.

Assuming the office of the CTO takes the lead on creating a technology committee, the CRO and products teams should be prepared to answer the following questions to help establish a basis for ROI:

  • What are your department/business unit initiatives for 2022? (For example: Drive 15% more streams, increase average viewing time +2:00 per stream, create 20% more ad inventory)
  • Do you anticipate requiring incremental technology to achieve those goals? (Yes or no)
  • If yes, what is the technology and what value does it provide? (For example: AI-enabled edge caching of content or ‘peer-to-peer’ networking can reduce the distance content needs to travel across a network, potentially reducing latency and buffering and improving the consumer experience, driving incremental streams, Average Viewing Time and ad inventory. (Office of the CTO may see a sustainability benefit, which in this case would be reduced power requirements and cost of delivery.)

With sufficient levels of cooperation from all participating departments and business units, the office of the CTO should be able to quantify the sustainable benefit of using such technology. For example, a 50% reduction in power requirements can be achieved from the servers, communication equipment, power supply, and cooling system. In addition, the technology reduces bandwidth requirements by 70%.

Sustainability in the media and entertainment industry will take many forms in the coming years. That said, collaboration within media organizations is vital in order to develop consumer-facing technologies that reduce carbon footprint.


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