Netflix: what is the carbon footprint of an hour of streaming?

Watching an episode and a half of your current series is equivalent to traveling 400 meters by car, reveals “Le Parisien”, Sunday April 11.

What’s better in these cold, confined times than watching your favorite series? Streaming platforms have been popular in recent months, to such an extent that Netflix, which has at least seven million subscribers in France, represents a quarter of French Internet traffic. The platform recently unveiled its global carbon footprint. “One hour of streaming in 2020 corresponds on average to less than 100 grams of CO2 equivalent, or the consumption of a 75 W fan for 6 hours,” revealed Emma Stewart, director of sustainable development at Netflix. Watching an episode and a half thus amounts to traveling 400 meters in a gasoline car, explains Le Parisien.

To better understand its energy bill, Netflix called on Impacts, a calculation tool developed by researchers at the University of Bristol, at the start of the year. The platform offered the services of Carnstone, the firm that markets subscriptions to this supercomputer. The latter is already used by the BBC or English private channels to quantify their carbon footprint and identify avenues for optimization, recalls the daily. Netflix has therefore submitted its internal data to the algorithms of this software. These take into account the power consumption of data centers, Internet networks and devices used for watching an episode. Result: an annual estimate based on hundreds of millions of users, then divided by the number of hours viewed.

A “not aberrant” result

To confirm these conclusions, Le Parisien submitted the results to experts in the digital carbon footprint. “The order of magnitude given does not seem to me to be absurd,” replied Maxime Efoui-Hess, project manager of the think tank The Shift Project. “The environmental impact is indeed low per hour of streaming, but the volume of Netflix subscribers ultimately increases the energy bill,” he continues. As for the research director of a large Internet service provider preferring to remain anonymous, this one evokes “fairly credible” results. According to him, “this carbon footprint calculated at the global level could even be lower in France thanks to its much more carbon-free nuclear energy”.

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