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Multi-screen video

Multiscreen Viewers Want Better Views

Although the quality of streaming video may be improving at a modest pace, it's not improving nearly fast enough for the majority of video viewers.

In a new study on the state of video streaming released Monday, Conviva Inc. reported that consumers are notably less tolerant of video buffering delays and other playback problems than they were just two years ago. In one sign of this growing intolerance, the study found that the amount of time lost from a viewing session with a 1% increase in buffering more than doubled from three minutes in 2011 to eight minutes in 2013. This indicates that viewers switched away from videos with buffering issues a lot sooner than before.

In another sign of growing consumer impatience with poor video streaming delivery quality, the Conviva study found that viewers particularly bolt if they experience playback problems while watching live sports, entertainment, or other live action events in HD. The average viewing time of live action programming in HD plunged from 40 minutes to just one minute when users ran into buffering delays.

Such delivery quality problems will likely make it tougher for service providers to attract and retain subscribers for their multiscreen video offerings. "In those instances, one bad viewing experience on a single device puts all screens at risk," said Colin Dixon, founder and chief analyst of nScreen Media, in a prepared statement. "Continuity of quality across screens is very important."

While streaming video delivery quality is not improving as quickly as consumers want or expect, it is steadily improving, according to Conviva. Its latest global study of 45 billion video streams sent across more than 1.6 billion playback devices found that video buffering actually fell from 39.3% in 2012 to 26.9% last year.

In another sign of improvement, Conviva found that low-resolution delivery of video streams dropped to 43.3% last year from a whopping 63% in 2012. But, even with that improvement, "more than two in five views were grossly inferior video quality, " the firm said.

The increasing emphasis on streaming video quality comes as more consumers are clearly watching more video on more devices. In a corresponding survey of streaming households, Conviva found that the number of concurrent streaming devices in use increased by 28% from 2012 to 2013. This finding corroborates recent research from other organizations. (See Nielsen: Multiscreen Viewing Taking Off.)

Further, Conviva's data shows that different video playback devices are preferred by consumers at different times of the day. In the 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. period, mobile devices emerge as the favorite, accounting for 6.9% of all video streamed daily. PCs take over in the afternoon slot from noon to 4 p.m., accounting for 16.3% of all daily video streams. Then, as might be expected, the TV rules in the evening window from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., accounting for 36.6% of all streaming video.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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KBode 3/31/2014 | 2:30:32 PM
Curious Did they say if the peering feud between AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Netflix contributed to these statistics? Buffering problems were down, but those three ISPs, which account for the majority of all broadband users, saw noteable deterioration courtesy of their attempt to get more money for interconnection.

Also curious to see some data on who the traditional streaming customer blames first in those instances? The ISP? Netflix?
Sarah Thomas 3/31/2014 | 4:28:53 PM
Which devices? Is the tolerance level the same across all device types? I have 0 tolerance when it happens on my TV, which is only every once and awhile on U-Verse, but am more willing to accept it on my smartphone. I will say, however, that I am much less likely to accept it on LTE than I was on 3G. I bet that's the case for most survey respondents, unless it was all over WiFi.
TaraSeals 3/31/2014 | 5:53:11 PM
Re: Which devices? I agree that it's totally unacceptable on the TV considering how much cable bills are--and I would guess that most people agree.

But a survey from Parks Associates has found that consumers expect the same TV user experience throughout their home, regardless of whether the service is offered over the top (OTT), a managed terrestrial operator network, satellite or other delivery mechanism. That study interestingly found that expectations also remain the same regardless of the receiving device, including set-top box or connected CE device.

The connected home research further found that users want all of the bells and whistles of a traditional pay-TV service within the user interface for OTT.

"While some operators might see OTT delivery or use on a connected CE device as a way to offer a slimmed-down version of their user interface, consumers still expect the full-feature service and interface experience regardless of how it is delivered to the TV," said Brett Sappington, director of research at Parks Associates.

So...a possible differentiation point?
Sarah Thomas 3/31/2014 | 6:22:59 PM
Re: Which devices? I am surprised by that study findings. I have different expectations for my WiFi network versus LTE versus 3G versus cable. I guess improving technologies mean that people no longer excuse certain networks. Might be time to stop dumbing down the multiscreen viewing experience.
TaraSeals 3/31/2014 | 7:01:19 PM
Re: Which devices? I know-- it's really interesting. I personally think that the wireless experience is getting so much better with 4G that the average consumer's expectations are improving overall.
Liz Greenberg 3/31/2014 | 9:24:57 PM
Re: Which devices? I agree with you Sarah but I think that the average user doesn't really distinguish between the capabilities of WiFi versus the mobile network (4G, LTE, etc) and therefore just thinks that it is bad reception.  Most people ask me "What is the difference between WiFi and Cellular?  Aren't they the same?"  So it will be interesting to see what happens over the next 12 months with more LTE and WiFi but also what the carriers will do to degrade the experience based on trying to meter Netflix and the like!
DOShea 3/31/2014 | 10:00:21 PM
Watching what? Who is watching video on their mobile phones between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., and what are they watching?
pcharles09 3/31/2014 | 10:06:41 PM
Re: Watching what? Good Morning America!
Joe Stanganelli 3/31/2014 | 11:08:22 PM
Re: Watching what? 6am-10am is peak time for commuting to work -- not to mention going to the gym before work.  Tons of people watch videos (Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, etc.) on their phone on the subway or the bus, or on the treadmill.
Joe Stanganelli 3/31/2014 | 11:10:29 PM
Re: Which devices? I too am more willing to accept it on my phone (to a certain degree), but that's primarily because I don't do much video watching on my phone; I have the most basic data plan and rarely come close to exceeding it.
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