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Live Streaming Carbon Cuts Are Working, But There's More to Be Done: Blackbird Report

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Last year the carbon output of TV production dropped by more than half, according to estimates from Bafta's sustainability program, albert. Even though much of this reduction resulted from productions that were forced to shut down, there are signs that the industry's drive to engineer CO2 emissions out of the production chain are working.

Clearly more needs to be done and a new paper from Blackbird rams the message home, along with promoting browser-based video production tools like its own as the greener alternative for media companies that want to go the extra mile.

The paper doesn't present any fresh research but does pull together a number of data points that paint a compelling argument for change.

Blackbird is mainly focussed on near-live content creation and delivery and acknowledges that much has been done in the industry to shift to carbon leaner remote production models.

It insists however that cloud native rather than cloud-based technologies and workflows will deliver substantially greater sustainability gains.

The report explains, "Cloud native solutions require less bandwidth so they can run off any web browser, and consume much less power because they don't need the same cloud infrastructure or storage as cloud based solutions – resulting in dramatically more sustainable workflows. Because they're engineered to remove carbon at source, they reduce the need for carbon offsetting and carbon credits."

Blackbird and its co-sponsors (partners and customers) of this report EVS, LiveU, Sky News Arabia, and Eurovision have stats to support its claims:

  • That Blackbird's own solution reduces carbon emissions by up to 91% compared to cloud based and on-prem editing workflows, according to a Blackbird survey of March 2021 compiled by Green Element.
  • That despite 90% of editors using cloud production and remote editing within their workflows today, 65% still move original high-res media files around the internet "which is costly and both time and carbon inefficient." This from Blackbird research earlier this year compiled by Caretta Research.
  • And that cloud workflows of a live event require 70% less technical infrastructure and 70% reduction in power required for galleries than conventional methods (with knock-on savings in CO2e emissions). This from a project organised by the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) along with vendors like AWS, Zixi ,and Hitomi.

Rightly, Blackbird is highlighting the need—and the practicality—of doing more to reduce carbon out of the production process at the source. What it means by that is putting the onus on media companies to consider the impact of all components in their supply chain, categorized by the global greenhouse gas protocol as Scope 3 emissions.

Where Scope 1 emissions are from in-house operations; Scope 2 are from the energy and utilities that are bought in; and Scope 3 refers to the carbon that suppliers and partners emit while working on your behalf.

"If we can't reduce consumption, the only way to decarbonize is to remove emissions at source, by reducing the energy used in streaming and in TV and video production," says Blackbird CEO Ian McDonough.

Setting sustainability targets is becoming a badge of reputational honor, with brands like Microsoft, Google, Discovery, and Netflix pledging to achieve net zero in certain time frames.

Tech vendors like Blackbird, ATEME and Singular.live (which are name-checked in this report) have every right to use their green credentials as a marketing weapon.

Avid, Adobe, and other non-cloud native edit solutions (not named by Blackbird but clear comparisons) also have the right to counter Blackbird's claims or come up with their own research stating why their approach is also helping reduce streaming video emissions.

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