back to article Still watching DVDs? You're a planet-killing carbon hog!

Here's one idea to get the world moving on carbon abatement: close the remaining DVD video industry and get everybody onto streaming. Of course, in countries like Australia, where rights-holders routinely hold back streaming availability in favour of TV broadcasters, where BitTorrent will get you Game of Thrones sooner than …

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  1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    FAIL

    So, how do I stream when

    I am in the back-country? No phone, no leccy apart from a few solar panels.

    No way will satellite do the job.

    With the impending widescale blackouts due to too-mich demand and not enough generation capacity, what price streaming then sunshine?

    These idiots (I refuse to call them boffins) should try living in the real world.

    Seeing lots of teenage girls being forced to spend days without online connection last week was real fun. They still went everywhere with their phones welded to one hand. No matter now hard they tried, they weren't going to get a connection. Pure magic.

    The advocates of streaming want everyone to be connected 100% of the time. Great for the likes of NSA./GCHS/FSB etc to spy on you but is it really the way forward for our society.

    Turn those devices off, unplug everything and basically, get a life!

  2. RAMChYLD

    Re: So, how do I stream when

    Back country?

    How about a country where Amazon unbox, Netflix etc don't want your business because you're not in North America, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, or any country in Asia outside of Japan and South Korea?

  3. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Re: So, how do I stream when

    Well actually there is a streaming service over satellite. It's called "television" and it works really well in the UK. All you need is a video disk recorder and you can just fill up your harddisks with DRM-free content.

  4. DropBear Silver badge
    Trollface

    Re: So, how do I stream when

    It's called "television" and it works really well in the UK

    My word, man! Have you seen the latency of that thing?!?

  5. Greg J Preece

    Re: So, how do I stream when

    Turn those devices off, unplug everything and basically, get a life!

    Said the man on the online forum.

    Is this now an obligatory thing here? The old-man moaning post about how online interactions somehow aren't real, the world was better when I was a kid, sweets were half a farthing, etc, etc? It's getting as tedious as the Opera fanboys invading anything to do with browsers. (Though they've quietened down since it became a Chrome clone, harf harf.)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: So, how do I stream when

    People still buy films? I thought TPB put an end to that a long time ago....

  7. RAMChYLD

    Re: So, how do I stream when

    As my reply pointed out, not everyone is in the UK.

    PS: BBC Entertainment Asia _did not_ air The Time of The Doctor >.> They have no excuse to do so, but they're standing their ground that they will not air it despite the regeneration of Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi and several other plotholes that would possibly result from missing the special. I would not have gotten to watch it if it wasn't for importing the DVD and then watching it on a region-free DVD player. iPlayer et al wouldn't let me watch it online because of my location.

  8. thx1138v2

    Re: So, how do I stream when

    "...wouldn't let me watch it online because of my location." Which is actually the point. Once everything is streaming the content is totally controlled at which point only approved content is produced and all production companies become propaganda machine.

    A friend of mine worked in the USSR and wondered why the telephone poles had so many wires. It was bacause all TV and radio went out over the wires so they could be controlled. Ditto if streaming becomes the only distribution available.

  9. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    Cost of ownership?

    Okay, I have not read the report, and I am making a knee-jerk, uninformed post. That said, I am willing to bet the report does not take into account the ownership factor of physical media and the convenience of being able to watch whatever movie or show I want once I own it without being subject to the whims of the content providers and rights holders. (I mean, DVD rental? Is that still a thing?)

    Sure, ownership does not affect the so-called environmental impact of DVD manufacture and distribution -- although my Futurama DVDs all say they are "carbon neutral" -- but that ain't my focus, now is it?

    I am not just one of those "dark social" people, I am also one of those "dark watchers." (I can do better... come back to me...)

  10. P. Lee Silver badge

    Re: Cost of ownership?

    How does streaming stack up against DVDs if you watch something twice, or more?

    How does streaming stack up against, ahem, off-peak multi-point scatter-gather systems which require far less dedicated bandwidth?

  11. Goat Jam

    Yes, I am going to ditch my stuff and stream online with all the costs and impracticalities that involves all in order to save the planet from . . . . what exactly?

    Byte me.

  12. svim

    I'm kind of confused by an article like this. Yes physical media is on the decline with cloud storage and online streaming increasing but the author doesn't seem to have a very good grip on interpreting real world issues. I live in America where we continue to have 'Digital Divide' issues created mostly by a handful of corporations working in collusion to maximize their own profit at the expense of a stagnant network infrastructure. So for most of us consumers depending on how much you pay and where you live you may or may not be able to sometimes watch anything online with some or very little 'buffering'. And here's a typical example -- for something like 'Downton Abbey', at one time we were able to binge watch it on Netflix but then after Amazon sent a few pallet loads of money and some hookers to the BBC management, the show was suddenly only available as rental discs because Amazon retained exclusive rights to stream it.

    So basically we are a long, long, long way from anyone being able to just sit down and watch what they want, we have a mess of convoluted services mixed with a various ways to access content, along with a small but influential anti-government conservative and libertarian sector of the population who view regulation as a problem and not a cure. This is just what's going on here in America, I don't know how much better or worse things are elsewhere.

  13. Goat Jam

    "I'm kind of confused by an article like this. Yes physical media is on the decline with cloud storage and online streaming increasing but the author doesn't seem to have a very good grip on interpreting real world issues."

    Well, to be fair, Mr Chirgwin is an AGW true believer so he is not particularly adept at interpreting real world issues. Fantasy disaster scenarios are more his thang.

  14. Tom 13

    Re: Amazon sent a few pallet loads of money and some hookers

    Sounds like maybe you should sue Amazon for anti-competive behavior under the Sherman Anti-trust Act.

    No, wait. So sorry, I forgot: that act is only available to Amazon when suing Apple.

  15. svim

    Re: Amazon sent a few pallet loads of money and some hookers

    >> maybe you should sue Amazon for anti-competive behavior

    Yeah, things have definitely changed. Corporate monopoly and collusion at one time were being regulated but the past few decades anti-consumer practices have returned in a very big way. What was once viewed as harmful to open competition in a free market is now viewed to be a standard way to bolster 'good business'. In America it's now 'Corporations are People' while workers are not, an American company has more legal rights than its citizens. Our previous checks and balances system between the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government has become corrupted, unable to function, and biased. So whether it's a matter of serious social issues or something as simplistic as watching 'Game of Thrones', our culture now ties everything to money and a maximum return on investment. Just like privatizing our schools is a money-maker for some at the expense of lower quality of life for everyone else, moving media content to streaming video is a more profitable for some, but the rest of us lose out because we have to pay more (continue to rent or buy physical media while at the same be forced to pay for not just one but multiple online services).

  16. Steve Knox Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Lovely graphic

    Pity it's been shrunk and compressed so as to be absolutely unreadable. You have the capability to include a higher resolution, "click-to-enlarge" version: I've seen you do it with graphics which don't need enlarging.

    So why, whenever a graphic obviously needs it, do you steadfastly refuse to do so?

  17. LaeMing

    Re: Lovely graphic

    I imagine that is all the authors supplied them with.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Lovely graphic

    An example though of how when your only option is to consume data remotely, what you see is restricted to what the remote provider of data lets you see. If bandwidth is expensive for example, and they want to cut costs, they could use lower res images. Not that I would ever accuse El Reg of such practices, just an example! :-)

    But I'm sure that would never happen if those benevolent non-greedy megacorps in charge of video distribution were in a monopoly position and the only way to get stuff was by streaming, would it?

  19. ScottK

    This adds in my driving to the shop to buy the disc?

    This smells like bullshit to me. This factors in my trip to the shop to buy the disc? I wouldn't make a special trip just to buy a DVD. The DVDs I own were either bought mail order, or bought while I was doing other shopping.

    Also, once I own it that is the end of its CO2 footprint regardless of how many more times it gets watched. Some of my daughter's films have been watched tens or even hundreds of times.

  20. Big John Silver badge

    Re: This adds in my driving to the shop to buy the disc?

    It smells worse yet. They seem to have included the energy costs of a 'van' to deliver rental disks, but generally that van is the postal service, which would be coming around regardless.

    I wonder how many more dodgy 'factors' they felt justified to include?

  21. Mike Bell

    Re: This adds in my driving to the shop to buy the disc?

    Some of my daughter's films have been watched tens or even hundreds of times.

    Shhh! Word of advice: never own up to being a secret Twilight fan.

  22. ScottK

    Re: This adds in my driving to the shop to buy the disc?

    She is still a bit young for for the teen-angst-vamipire-drama dross at the moment.

    It is more films like Frozen or Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. If given the opportunity she would probably put one of these on everyday as soon as she got home from school, then sit through it 3 times.

  23. MJI Silver badge

    Re: This adds in my driving to the shop to buy the disc?

    My daughter hates those sorts of films, she still likes animated though, and super hero films.

    Teen angst gets her ratty.

  24. Faux Science Slayer

    More Green Meanie FUDGE FACTOR Faux Science !

    It's called "Outcome Based Education"....in this case the elitist desired 'outcome' is to have easy ability to monitor, then control all of your information input, including educational and recreational viewing habits. They can monitor 'smart meter' electric use signals, but destroying private DVD sharing would allow even tighter controls. To appeal to the Green Meanine Zombies, they just fabricate 'statistics', which morons accept as 'science', then the DIGITAL BOOK BURNING is de rigor. This 'study' was likely taxpayer funded, as the elites want us to pay for our own CARBON SHEKELS AND CHAINS.

    Download ALL important digital data NOW and prepare for the pending network blinding.

  25. Tom 13

    Re: end of its CO2 footprint regardless of how many

    Actually not. Each time it is played there is probably an additional CO2 contribution for the player, the monitor/tv, and possibly air/heat and/or lighting in the room. The real question is, assuming everything but the player are constant vs streaming, does the player use more, less, or the same energy on subsequent viewings? As noted, since the graphics are crap I can't tell which way those bits fall. Also, when I follow the link I get a page not found error. So the three cases would fall out thus:

    * more energy for player just leads to increasing theoretical gains for streaming.

    * The same energy reduces the percentage of improvement over streaming asymptotically toward the energy profile of streaming.

    * lower than streaming eventually gives less carbon to physical media.

    However I do have to say that while it may on occasion be intellectually stimulating to try to logically debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, it is still pretty pointless outside of that realm.

  26. Tom 13

    Re: films like Frozen or Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.

    Be thankful for that. It could be Sponge Bob or Hannah Montana.

  27. ScottK

    Re: end of its CO2 footprint regardless of how many

    I knew when I posted that comment that the player & screen would still use power, but if I was streaming I would be using the same 2 devices (network connected Blu-Ray player), so the result would be more or less the same.

    Possibly streaming would use more power as the blu-ray player would need to be using its wireless, plus there is the router to take into account. Possibly streaming would be less as the motor for the disc player wouldn't be turning. Probably not much in it either way.

    The big difference is that the energy for making and transporting the disc are now sunk costs, whereas the datacentre and infrastructure required for streaming are still required for every subsequent play.

  28. J to the S

    Re: This adds in my driving to the shop to buy the disc?

    I'm more concerned about the waste of electricity used to type up this article. So Comcast charging Netflix for bandwidth means they hate the planet?

  29. Mark 85 Silver badge

    ok... I'll go sit in a dark cave

    with no 'leccy, no carbon footprint, etc. Will the alleged boffins do the same? How about the greens?

    I'm getting tired of hearing "what you should do is...." when the people saying this don't do it or even come close.

  30. ScottK

    Re: ok... I'll go sit in a dark cave

    This reminds me of an interview a few years ago on BBC breakfast with Adam Hart-Davis. He was telling everybody how they needed to stop flying as it was killing the environment. This was shortly before he then started waxing lyrical about his various shows in different parts of the world. No doubt flown there in business class at license payer expense.

    A classic moment of do as I say, not as I do.

  31. DerekCurrie
    Happy

    Better Idea: Generate Energy From NON-Carbon Sources

    It sure is fun to stick to the status quo of calculating how much carbon we blow off into the air for this, that and the other. :-)

    But how about we actually deal with the source problem for a change and GET OFF THE CARBON SOURCE ENERGY. Doesn't that sound like a much more productive idea? I think so!

    Break out of the box and live in the sustainable modern world. :-D

  32. Andrew Jones 2

    Sure,,,, I'll ditch my DVD collection and only stream online from now on....

    Will they pay my broadband bill though?

    It's bad enough the BBC thinks it's fine to start dropping channels off-the-air and make them online only, I really don't need anyone else doing that.

  33. DougS Silver badge

    They make some HUGE assumptions here

    That people are making special trips for each DVD they watch, as opposed to picking them up at the Redbox conveniently located in/outside a place they'd be visiting anyway, and as opposed to getting Netflix to mail them to do, and as opposed to owning them.

    The true number is nowhere near 200,000 household equivalents. If you want to attack CO2, you need to make big moves, not worry about stuff that's lost in the noise of the noise like DVDs. If the US switched trucks, busses and trains from diesel to natural gas, that would be a massive change. Not to mention the benefit to world stability of the Middle East playing a reduced role in the political calculations of the US.

    I'm somewhat skeptical of global warming, but I still support switching the bulk transportation industry in the US to natural gas for the latter reason (and yeah, someone will whine about fracking, but the problems it may create are minor compared to the negative political consequences of the US having an oil dominant industry)

  34. Tom 13

    Re: diesel to natural gas

    Are you sure that works net on net? According to the tree huggers methane is even worse than diesel as a warming agent and with more of it being moved around, more of it is sure to inadvertently leak into the atmosphere.

    Seems to me the only way to do that is move the trucks to battery and the electric generation to nukes, solar, or unicorn farts. And as we've already examined the problems with those to death here on El Reg, I'll leave it at they seem pretty pointless as well.

  35. DougS Silver badge

    Re: diesel to natural gas

    When methane is released into the atmosphere it is indeed a far worse GHG. That's why regulations require it to be captured or burnt off in places like landfills.

    When burnt, it leaves CO2 behind - and quite a bit less CO2 per unit of energy than diesel (or gasoline, not that any of these large vehicles use that)

  36. Christian Berger Silver badge

    If there wasn't DRM...

    We'd all be using pay-download services which would be _way_ more energy efficient than current streaming offers and wouldn't have the disadvantages. So far buying DVDs and Blurays is the only feasible way to get a DRM-free copy of a movie for your own personal use.

  37. Ceiling Cat
    Pint

    Re: If there wasn't DRM...

    DVDs are normally protected using CSS, a form of DRM. That's why (under linux anyways) you have to install special packages in order to view DVDs. In hardware players, the decrypting is done by the hardware (obviously). Blu-Ray are also encrypted, but it's a different encryption scheme than DVDs use, and I honestly haven't been bothered to research what type of encryption they use.

    "Region 0" or "Region Free" discs of either type are very very hard to come by, and usually when you do, they'll be from grey-market sources such as Hong Kong. Not all, mind you, but most.

    Regarding the article itself, they must be assuming that everyone who owns a DVD player has a 100+ watt all-in-one DVD/Hi-fi setup and a CRT TV, as opposed to the (still fairly common) standalone DVD player and flat-panel TV/Computer monitor. They also seem to assume that we all drive to the store (I don't - it's a 5 minute walk away, if even) AND leave my car (which I don't own at all) Idling in the mall parking lot while I spend half an hour or more deciding what DVD to buy.

    It also fails to take into account that people these days often watch on PC, a laptop, etc. as opposed to the television.

    And don't even get me started on streaming services. The best choice I have found so far doesn't stream, per se, it sells you a download of the episode/movie that you download to your device. I live in Canada, and even *I* would have to cheat and use a proxy to get access to the "proper" Netflix catalog.

    Beer, because.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: If there wasn't DRM...

    And Blu Rays are protected by even more DRM + all recent Blu Ray players are infected with a DRM virus called Cinavia that stop copies playing correctly. LOL @ "DRM Free".

  39. JEDIDIAH
    Linux

    Re: If there wasn't DRM...

    > And Blu Rays are protected by even more DRM + all recent Blu Ray players are infected with a DRM virus called Cinavia that stop copies playing correctly. LOL @ "DRM Free".

    That's why you acquire better ripping software and a PC bluray reader. The initial overhead is bothersome but the end result is much more satisfying.

  40. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    "once you count in driving to the store"

    So going to the cinema is a crime against the planet, too?

  41. Intractable Potsherd

    Yes - yes it is. Going to the cinema saves the movie industry but kills polar bears ... you Mother Earth-hating bastard! And don't get me started on the destruction caused by popcorn!!!

  42. Tom 13

    Re: going to the cinema is a crime against the planet, too?

    In more ways than one these days. But that's a different topic.

  43. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Worth checking the source

    The Register's link was broken, but after a few web searches I found the article.

    The little picture in the Register's article compares 3.28 hours of streaming with 17.28 hours of DVD (50% mail delivered, 50% consumer delivered). That 50/50 split was a guess because the authors did not have any better numbers. The full sized oranges to oranges picture with separate columns for mail and consumer delivery is here.

    By the study's numbers, streaming is only more environmentally friendly when consumer transport is included. Mail delivery is about as environmentally (un)friendly as streaming. If you use consumer delivery, you can divide the big pink rectangle if you watch a rental more than once, or if you rent more than one film per journey (I think the study assumes pick up and drop off in the same round trip journey of 17km). You can also squash or remove the pink box if you went to town for other reasons and bought more than one DVD while you were there. The idea of buying a boxed set of six for a TV series has been conveniently forgotten.

    The next biggest box is consumer equipment power. Old DVD players use the same amount of power when idle and when playing, and these make up a significant fraction of the 2011 US population. If I buy a second hand DVD player and leave it on continuously, then for every Joule it uses, 0.99 Joules are not used for central heating (the house is too hot for about 4 days per year). The same would be true of a streaming box, but in the study, streaming boxes use about half the energy of DVD players.

    This leaves streaming with a great big green box for network transport energy that make it tower over the tiny grey and yellow boxes. Much of the big green box would be there anyway for an internet connection whether you use streaming or not. (The invisible brown sliver for mail delivery would still be there because the post lady delivers letters too.) The only box that survives is the grey box for the embodied energy (manufacturing costs) of the consumer devices. This is about the same for streaming and DVD.

    The real conclusion should be: don't waste time worrying about the tiny speck of energy used by video. Concentrate of the things that matter: transport, central heating/cooling, and washing. Little things like switching to an efficient fridge and fluorescent lighting save you money, but even if everybody does those little things, then end result is a little change in the total amount of power used.

  44. Imsimil Berati-Lahn

    Re: Worth checking the source

    Thanks for the working link.

    My opinion is that the study has some flawed assumptions.

    1) People will exclusively use EITHER physical media, OR streamed media.

    2) Physical media will only be watched once.

    3) Physical media devices use more energy than streaming ones.

    Generally, none of these assumptions will be true.

    And also the study is incomplete for not including the retained downloaded electronic media model.

    Also those kind of figures are like a fart in a hurricane compared with food production energy usage.

  45. LaeMing

    Carbon

    Aren't DVDs and their packaging predominantly made of plastic, which is made from oil, which would otherwise be burned into the air in an engine?

    So our shelves of DVDs are technically carbon sequestration. The government should be paying us for the service!

  46. Chozo
    Trollface

    Sounds like a convincing arguement to me for downloading and sharing.

  47. DPWDC

    This isn't a like for like comparison?

    "HD" streaming via netflix et al is no where near as pleasant to watch (& listen to) as a plain old DVD (and BluRay knocks it out of the water). OK they may set the resolution to 1080i and call it "HD", but with an awful, AWFUL bitrate it still looks better on DVD at 576p with a higher bitrate.

    I digress...

    This article compares apples and oranges... You could just as easily argue that DVDs are better for the environment than going to the cinema once you factor in the staff travelling to work, cost of keeping the popcorn warm, the cinema usually being mostly empty, having to get to the cinema etc etc, but they are different beasts.

    I'll happily stream a film that is mostly storyline, or catch up with iPlayer, but for a action / blockbuster, I want detail and sound quality that I can't get at the moment when streaming - until the streaming services let me download the full 4.7GB DVD, you can't compare them.

  48. JEDIDIAH
    Linux

    Re: This isn't a like for like comparison?

    > until the streaming services let me download the full 4.7GB DVD, you can't compare them.

    Never mind a 4G DVD. Try a 9G one or a 35G BluRay.

    Same argument applies though. Streaming services can't compare to physical media for quality and clarity. Half the time the picture is pants because your network pipe got suddenly constricted.

  49. Allan 1

    All well and fine, but...

    Every streaming service I've tried do NOT provide subtitling for the feature, and some have no intetion to ever provide subtitling, hiding behind clauses such as "the licence holder prevents.."

    I am deaf. I need subtitling on my movies. DVD's provide that. Streaming doesn't.

    I'll stick with DVD's.

  50. Greg J Preece

    Re: All well and fine, but...

    Every streaming service I've tried do NOT provide subtitling for the feature, and some have no intetion to ever provide subtitling, hiding behind clauses such as "the licence holder prevents.."

    Netflix *definitely* has this, at least in NA. Grab yourself an SSH tunnel and enjoy.

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