The Myth Of Family Viewing; The Pain Of Ever-Buffering Video

In the typical way video industry reports just become a blur of often-stunning numbers in this biz, here’s one in Conviva’s new 2014 Viewer Experience Report that caught my attention:

Year-to-year, a study of streaming households, measured by distinct IP address, shows that the number of concurrent streaming devices operating in the same household increased by 28% from 2012 to 2013.

Conviva, which in this report otherwise concentrates mainly on buffering problems—fascinating stuff we’ll get to later—says that its concurrent streaming stat is a clear indication that “the old measurement of ‘television households’ needs to change.”

In Conviva’s estimation, it’s clear now that “in many streaming video households, each person is watching their own show, on their own screen, in prime time.”  We know this intuitively. Man, it’s been a long time since Bill Cosby could gather everybody up in the living room. Conviva puts it plainer than that: “Using households as the basis for calculating viewer behaviors just doesn’t cut it anymore.”

The bulk of the report, though, concerns buffering and video quality, or the lack of it. In short, here the conclusion is pretty commonsensical. Publishers that think they’ll concentrate on good video experience on just one screen are likely to pay the price because users are all over the place.

“Simply put, it’s not about a particular screen. It’s about all of them,” the Conviva report concludes. “If you disappoint your viewer on one screen, you’ll miss the opportunity to engage with them during other parts of the day.”

Conviva’s new data is filled with interesting data about how and where viewers do their streaming. For example, the report says that between 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily,  6.9% of all video streamed all day long is delivered to tablets and smartphones. Mobile devices are 37.5% more likely to be used than a PC and 45.5% more than a connected TV during those hours.

Midday, the PC still rules, though not overwhelmingly. And in prime time, connected TV devices grab nearly 40% of video streamed daily between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.; the PC comes next and last of all, mobile devices. Obviously, size matters.  

Now, on to the nagging problem of well, not being able to stream.

The good news: the percentage of views that are accompanied by buffering fell from 39.3% in 2012 to 26.9% in 2013. The percentage of views impacted by low resolution fell from 63% to 43.3%.  The bad news: the percentage of views impacted by a failure to start grew from 4% to 4.8%   

Still, even the good news is pretty bad news. It’s still true that “more than a quarter of all views left the consumer watching the spinning wheel indicating buffering is occurring,” Conviva says. That’s something like being a radio station with a horribly weak signal. I just don’t go there.  Online, that whirling circle is the fuzzy static of the 21st century, virtually urging me and you and many millions more like us, to go somewhere, anywhere else.

Conviva’s stats show that the same level of buffering inconvenience trimmed three minutes from how much a viewer watched in 2011. In 2013, that’s up to 11 minutes. Viewers just won’t wait.

“For live sports, the critical thing is to never, ever cause the viewer to miss any of the action,” the report says. “Average viewing time plummets from over 40 minutes in HD to just one minute if the viewer encounters high buffering.” I can vouch for that. MLB.com lost me last night. I saw the pitcher winding up, and then stay frozen that way, for, oh, about a minute. I retrieved the LG smart TV remote I threw and went to bed, wondering about enduring that for 161 more games.

pj@mediapost.com

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1 comment about "The Myth Of Family Viewing; The Pain Of Ever-Buffering Video ".
  1. J S from Ideal Living Media , April 2, 2014 at 3:48 p.m.
    Google Fiber, where are you?