A new study from online video optimization firm Conviva offered a dose of good and bad news for streaming world – video buffering is on the decline, but consumers are less tolerant of it when it does occur.
Conviva’s study, titled the 2014 Viewer Experience Report, found that roughly 27% of online video views experience buffering, 43% have low-resolution, and about 5% never start to play,When it comes to buffering, that’s a sign of marked improvement. Video buffering actually decreased from 39.3% in 2012, to 26.9% in 2013, based on Conviva’s study of 45 billion video streams across more than 1.6 billion individual devices and 400 premium video players in 2013.
But that’s only part of the story. The company, which counts ABC, NBCUniversal and HBO among its customers, also contended that the study found that viewer expectations for streaming quality outpaced improvements made by online video publishers last year.
Despite the reduced instances of buffering, it’s still a big turn off for consumers. According to the company’s metrics, viewing time for live action TV drops from over 40 minutes in HD to just 1 minute, if the viewer encounters buffering.
Delivering quality across screens is becoming increasingly important as more consumer eyeballs gravitate to video that is streamed to smartphones, tablets and other IP-connected devices. Conviva’s study found that the number of concurrent streaming devices had jumped by 28% year-over-year, creating a more fragmented viewing audience that is becoming more difficult to track using traditional methods.
Conviva also found that the preferred device of choice generally changes at different times of the day. Mobile devices are preferred from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., representing 6.9% of all video streamed per day, while the PC dominates the period from noon to 4 p.m., representing 16.3% of the day’s streaming. The TV continues to dominate the prime time period of 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., representing 36.6% of all video streamed per day.
“Some companies are doing a great job delivering high-quality video to all screens, but many are not minimizing buffering while maintaining video quality,” warned Colin Dixon, founder and chief analyst of nScreenMedia, in a statement. “In those instances, one bad viewing experience on a single device puts all screens at risk. Continuity of quality across screens is very important.”
Conviva’s customers include Disney, ESPN, ABC, Viacom, HBO, NBCUniversal, Al Jazeera, Vimeo, Univision, Bravo, Cablevision Systems, M-GO, Shaw Communications, and Ziggo, among others.
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