How your Netflix habit could be harming the planet: Carbon emissions produced by fans watching a month of the platform’s top 10 global TV shows is equivalent to driving a car beyond SATURN, report reveals
- Distance to Saturn is approximately 746 million miles (1.2 billion kilometers)
- Streaming services affect the environment due to power needed to transfer data
- Netflix is the world’s biggest streaming service with 209 million users globally
Carbon emissions produced by fans watching a month of Netflix’s top 10 shows is equivalent to ‘driving a car beyond Saturn’ – more than 746 million miles, a report warns.
Netflix content in the global top 10 – including Stranger Things, Money Heist and Bridgerton – clock up hundreds of millions of hours’ viewing time combined in the first month since their release.
YouTube, meanwhile, is responsible for emitting enough carbon dioxide annually to far surpass the equivalent greenhouse gas output of Glasgow, where the the Cop26 climate summit is being held this weekend.
Streaming services have a negative effect on the environment due to the power required to transfer data, a large proportion of which is generated by non-renewable energy sources like gas and coal, which emit harmful greenhouse gases.
With 209 million subscribers around the world, Netflix is the world’s biggest streaming service. But streaming services have a negative effect on the environment due to the power required to transfer data
Period drama Bridgerton is one of Netflix’s most populat shows. It topped Netflix’s list for shows in terms of most hours watched in the first 28 days since release combined – 625 million
HOW DOES STREAMING HURT THE PLANET?
Streaming through services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video requires energy to run the data centres on which the content is stored as well as the energy needed to transmit the content to the users.
Also, end-user devices like smartphones, laptops or TVs consume electricity while watching content.
According to Netflix, the average carbon footprint of one hour of streaming in Europe is approximately 55 gCO2e (grams of carbon dioxide equivalents) – the same as driving about 300 metres in a car.
For users to watch content on Netflix and other streaming services, data has to travel through a network of energy-sapping cables, routers and datacentres.
Data centres house and power the millions of computers, known as ‘servers’, that are required to make the internet work – but they require huge amounts of power 24/7.
Greening of Streaming, an organisation created to ‘address the growing concerns about the energy impact of the streaming sector’, has warned how an explosion in popularity of streaming services is impacting the planet.
‘Strangely, environmental impact is a very young story in the streaming industry,’ Dom Robinson, founder of Greening of Streaming, told the Guardian.
‘People talk about the bottlenecks in internet traffic caused by the growing demand for streaming and gaming services, but there is plenty of capacity, it is actually about the growing demand for power supply.
‘We have created Greening of Streaming because we know there is sufficient appetite within the streaming sector to make positive changes to reduce this environmental impact, and because the technology is there to make it achievable.’
According to Netflix, the average carbon footprint of one hour of streaming in Europe is approximately 55 g of CO2e (grams of carbon dioxide equivalents).
Netflix has bought video game creator Night School Studio and rolled out five mobile gaming titles in select European markets, the company said at the end of September.
Night School Studio, the company’s first gaming studio purchase, is best known for its debut game, ‘Oxenfree’, a supernatural teen thriller with an eerie soundtrack.
The studio’s games will be the first non-mobile titles in the streaming giant’s new video game portfolio.
‘Like our shows and films, these games will all be included as part of your Netflix membership – all with no ads and no in-app purchases,’ the company said.
‘That’s about the same as microwaving four bags of popcorn, or three boils in an electric kettle in the UK,’ it says.
It’s also equivalent to driving about 300 metres in a car – under one quarter of a mile.
According to Carbon Trust, this average of approximately 55g for users in Europe, which is ‘very small compared to other everyday activities’.
However, combining the total use of Netflix’s 209 million subscribers around the world pushes its total carbon emissions to such astronomical proportions.
In September, Netflix revealed the most-watched TV shows and films for the first time, with its content clocking up some pretty hefty figures.
In terms of hours watched in the first 28 days since release, the top 10 TV shows alone (without taking into account films) numbered more than 5 billion hours.
Period drama Bridgerton topped the list for shows in terms of hours watched in the first 28 days since release – 625 million.
The show’s first season was also viewed by a staggering 82 million Netflix accounts in the same period.
For movies, horror thriller Birdbox took the top spot in terms of hours watched in their first 28 days, ahead of Extraction and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.
The figures were revealed by Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s co-CEO, as part of efforts to be ‘more transparent’.
Netflix top-10 films and TV series by total view hours in the first 28 days since release. Bridgerton topped the list for shows, at 625 million
Netflix top-10 films and TV series by number of accounts that have watched at least two minutes in its first 28 days of release (Netflix counts a view as a user watching a title for a minimum of two minutes)
The streaming giant announced back in March its target of net zero emissions by the end of 2022.
Net zero means any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using technology like carbon capture and storage.
However, its own plans to become net zero are only based on the carbon footprint of its corporate operations and the making of films and TV shows – not the emissions created by customers watching content on the platform.
‘The calculation of carbon footprint should include user devices as that is where the digital services are being consumed,’ Daniel Schien, senior lecturer in computer science at the University of Bristol, told the Guardian.
‘Exclusion of that part of the footprint will undermine the ability to manage and reduce it.’
NETFLIX’S MOST POPULAR TV SHOWS AND FILMS BY TIME WATCHED
Netflix top-10 TV shows and films by total view hours in the first 28 days
1. Bridgerton, S1 – 625 million hours
2. Money Heist, part 4 – 619 million hours
3. Stranger Things 3 – 582 million hours
4. The Witcher, S1 – 541 million hours
5. 13 Reasons Why, S2 – 496 million hours
6. 13 Reasons Why, S1 – 476 million hours
7. You, S2 – 457 million hours
8. Stranger Things 2 – 427 million hours
9. Money Heist, part 3 – 426 million hours
10. Ginny & Georgia, S1 – 381 million hours
1. Bird Box – 282 million hours
2. Extraction – 231 million hours
3. The Irishman – 215 million hours
4. The Kissing Booth 2 – 209 million hours
5. 6 Underground – 205 million hours
6. Spenser Confidential – 197 million hours
7. Enola Holmes – 190 million hours
8. Army of the Dead – 187 million hours
9. The Old Guard – 186 million hours
10. Murder Mystery – 170 million hours
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