As More People Stream Video, More Annoyances Emerge

A tablet streaming video
(Image credit: Netflix)

As more people stream more video they’re finding, technological glitches are becoming more annoying--and more costly.

A new survey by Penthera found that lengthy buffering and repetitive commercials can result in viewers abandoning programming, behavior that hurts streaming platforms and advertisers. More viewers are turning to downloading as a way to get better performance when watching videos.

Penthera’s fourth annual survey of streaming video viewers in the U.S. found that in 2021, the average adult will spend 2 hours and 29 minutes watching digital video, an increase of 6%.

At the same time, a higher percentage of viewers report experiencing frustrations when they stream—92% versus  2020. The frustration is also more frequent. Among those surveyed, 68% said they had a frustrating experience weekly, compared to 55% in 2020.

“It’s likely that as users watch content across more available services, they are less tolerant of interruptions, low quality, and other experiential issues,” the report said. 

Viewers’ reactions to those frustrations are also stronger. In the new survey, 57% of viewers said they will give up and try again later (compared to 39% in 2020) and 32% will leave to try a different video app (compared to 17% in 2020). 

Viewers are less patient than ever and will frequently abandon a video stream for other entertainment, the report noted.

To streamers, having a good experience has become more important than the availability of good content. Increasingly they said videos can’t be enjoyed when problems like low-quality and re-buffering occur.

Of those surveyed, 40% said re-buffering is the most common reason they abandon a stream, compared to 26% who said they leave most often because they don’t enjoy the content. When asked the top factor in deciding which streaming service to use, 51% said ease of use and 41% reported videos not buffering as the most important factor. Only 39% said having shows and movies they like was their biggest consideration.

The same pattern appears when it comes to ad-supported streaming video. In the survey, 43% said annoying or repetitive ads would make them stop using an AVOD service and 40% would stop using because of a poor experience like startup delays or buffering. 

Content was less of a priority, with 39% saying they’d stop using an AVOD service because the content isn’t good.

To find a better experience viewers are increasingly downloading content, even when they’re planning to watch at home. 

Last year’s survey found that 43% of viewers said they watched downloaded videos when on a trip and 35% did so at home. But in 2021, the script flipped with 45% saying they watch downloaded videos on mobile at home, while 32% watch them when on a trip.

“During the pandemic when all travel and commuting stopped, we expected to see a decline in download activity across our customers globally,” said Penthera president and COO Daniel Taitz. “What we learned was actually the opposite. Download activity increased around the world as viewers wanted to ensure they had a perfect viewing experience without interruptions right inside their home. It's just a better way to watch.”

Overall people are downloading at higher rates in 2021, with 92% said they’ve downloaded from a streaming service, compared to 88% in 2020.

“Viewers no longer think of download as merely a feature to use when they travel on planes or commute—they think of it as a better way to watch," the report said. “They’re using it at home as well, even when they have a connection, so they can avoid frustrating delays and interruptions."

Viewers said they like watching ad-supported streaming videos, and half said it’s because viewing ads lets them watch content for free or at a reduced cost. But when the experience isn’t good, they won’t hesitate to stop using an ad-supported service. 

The top frustration is annoying or repetitive ads, and 43% of those surveyed said that would make them stop using a service. Unfortunately, this is a common issue.

The same ad repeating is seen as worse than too many ads. In the survey, 36% of viewers said ad repetition is their top frustration with ad-supported video, while 30% said it was too many ads.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.