New research highlights energy, environmental impact of changing UK viewing habits

Wednesday 15 May 2019 | 11:14 CET | News

New research from Lancaster University shows that UK viewing habits are shifting away from traditional broadcasting, with more data-intensive streaming services now the default option for many.

The study suggests that the UK is seeing a 'viewing revolution' as the advent of internet TV, video sharing platforms and other on-demand services provide more choice and flexibility for viewers. 

Computing researchers at the University analysed the use of 66 computing devices - such as smart TVs, tablets, dongles, laptops and mobile phones - for one month across 20 participants in nine households. The study shows that there has been a significant shift in viewer behaviour towards streaming as the default, with traditional broadcast TV and DVDs becoming obsolete for some. 

All homes in the study watched some type of video content each day, contributing to almost three quarters of total household data demand. Smartphones were the most commonly owned devices. A PlayStation console was the most data-hungry device, followed by TV dongles. The study also found that YouTube was the most data demanding watching service, accounting for almost 50 percent of demand for watching across all homes. Other demanding viewing services include Now TV, Netflix, Sky TV and TV Player. This was followed by social-media related video content on platforms such as Facebook and Twitch. 

The study found that participants selected more data-hungry resolutions, such as HD, when given the option to watch programmes in different resolutions. Families are also often watching different programmes simultaneously on different devices (multi-watching), which increases data consumption. It also found that people would rather watch programmes through online catch-up services, instead of pre-recording them or watching a DVD, as was 'just as easy'. 

The researchers also found evidence of wasteful practices, such as using video streaming platforms like YouTube as background music players and not watching the videos, despite the high data volumes involved. The report makes several suggestions to help lower the energy demand and environmental impact of this viewing revolution. This includes software designers and academics working with network engineers to create functions or prompts to urge viewers to consider less data-hungry forms of watching. The researchers also want policy makers to consider the environmental and energy costs connected to the internet when promoting the need for faster infrastructure. 

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Categories: Broadcast & Satellite / Internet
Countries: United Kingdom
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