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That Spinning Ball of Buffering Can Harm Over-the-Top Brands

Related: For MCTV, IPTV Can Wait

Saying that buffering irritates people is like calling water wet, but a new study commissioned by content delivery networking giant Akamai suggests the issues run much deeper than that.

Streaming video quality and proper playback can translate to stronger consumer loyalty to over-the-top services, and have the opposite effect when things go awry. That’s according to a study outsourced to third-party firm Sensum that included the biometric feedback and other reactive measurements from a group of more than 1,200 people who were shown video encoded at a variety of resolutions.

The study, which employed biometric measurement tools such as facial coding (emotional responses used to evaluate reactions) and skin conductance, found that negative emotions rise 16% while engagement drops nearly 20% when faced with buffering and other poor streaming experiences.

And when that dreaded swirling ball of buffering appears, happiness drops 14%, attention dips by 3% and focus declines 8%, the study found. A part of the study that relied on traditional survey questions also discovered that 76% of participants would stop using a service if issues such as buffering occurred several times.

Akamai said the study shows that poor quality streaming has a long-lasting impact on a brand because it can cause this rise in negative emotions. It also speaks to how consumers have revised their expectations for streaming, as connections get speedier and latencies smaller.

On the other end of the spectrum, nonbuffering streams produced a 10.4% higher emotional engagement than video did at lower resolution levels, according to a portion of the study that based findings on galvanic skin response, which measures electrical conductance.

Among the different OTT business models tied to the study, subscription video-on-demand brands lose the most engagement due to buffering, while transactional VOD services suffer the most negative impact to brand loyalty when a consumer has a low-quality experience.

The study shows that “there is no place for low-quality video in any streaming business model,” Ian Munford, director of product marketing, media solutions at Akamai, said.