Nielsen Launches Test Platform for Mobile Video

Keeping stride with consumer video consumption habits, Nielsen has launched a performance testing platform for mobile video that centers on benchmarks such as resolution, time-to-start and rebuffering.

The new test solution, which covers both mobile/cellular networks and WiFi, spans a wide range of carrier mobile networks as well as different mobile devices.

Nielsen has been testing mobile networks for about 17 years. Though it was originally focused on the performance of voice calls, the sector, of course, has evolved to center on high-speed connectivity for web applications and a surge in video consumption.

Nielsen’s Q1 2017 Total Audience Report found that monthly U.S. video consumption on smartphones rose 81.5% year-over-year – from 151 minutes in 2016 to 274 minutes in 2017.

Nielsen’s new mobile video performance offering aims to provide an “independent benchmark” in this area, explained Mike Greenawald, SVP of Nielsen Service Quality.

“This is where the industry is going,” he said. With respect to high-speed data, “It used to be that you wanted to own the home, but now you really want to own that connection to the consumer, from the content to the delivery.”

Looking beyond bits and bytes, Nielsen’s mobile video performance system tracks benchmarks that are important from the consumer perspective, centering on elements that are most critical to the consumer.

Video resolution, startup time, and rebuffering (the amount of time that video stalls during playback) “were the three elements that popped,” Greenawald said.

The new platform also keeps tabs on video success rate (the ability to launch and play a video in 60 seconds).

Nielsen’s new performance tracker leans on an HLS video player on smartphones that works in tandem with a cloud-based system that obtains the data and runs the tests. As part of its control methodology, the tests are conducted with the same video clip/file to create a like-for-like comparison.

Nielsen’s measurements are based on wireless usage and performance of a national panel of 70,000-plus U.S. users, factoring in a wide range of devices, locations and operators.

Starting next year, Nielsen will use that data to create industry-level data points and reports that highlight mobile video performance.

But it’s already issuing some info based on initial findings, finding that mobile operators delivered HD (720p or greater) quality video 69% of the time.

Based on 120,000 tests conducted from September to October 2017, consumers in Orlando, Portland and Seattle enjoyed the best video viewing experiences, while those in Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Houston receive HD video less often than the national average.

Ahead of the 5G era and as more consumers use mobile networks to stay connected, these performance benchmarks will become “critical elements that will differentiate the service providers,” Greenawald said.