Everybody and their brother is getting into the over-the-top space now, and nearly four out of 10 broadband households now subscribe to some service. A new report out today from Conviva, however, shows that consumers don’t suffer bufferers (and other ills) easily, and as more entrants move in, customer satisfaction might loom even larger.
One upside for the content provider: They don’t totally blame you.
But this report, the first Conviva has ever done measuring consumer attitudes, shows that only one out of four customers will tolerate a bad video experience for more than four minutes. But to me, more significantly, one out of three will leave as soon as a video stream starts to screw up, with buffering or just plain, garden-variety bad video.
This Conviva survey looked at 750 consumers, from the age of 26 to 34, an age group Conviva says is the prime young, angry cord-cutting bunch, and discovered that they are not necessarily a patient or forgiving bunch.
Asked what they’d do if they attempt to watch a piece of video and encounter buffering or low quality, 49% said they’d close the video and try again. Which at first sounds bad enough--poof, you’ve lost half your audience--until you see the stats play out. 29% said they’d go somewhere else to find the same content--and 11% they’d stop watching video altogether. So you’ve soured them on the entire industry. Damn.
Conviva is in the video optimization business and provides analytics about viewer engagement. It also markets products that can locate, and usually fix, video streaming problems, so a report titled “How Consumers Judge Video Quality: The Business Implications of Low Quality OTT Service” could be retitled, “Here’s Scary Information About Why Conviva Exists.”
But I don’t think anyone would deny there are issues out there.
Conviva asked consumers what how one bad experience would affect their impression about that content provider, and more than a third said it wouldn’t make a difference. But nearly half said it would make it unlikely/less likely they’d come knocking at that Website again for streaming video.
“What our data tell us is when they leave one piece of content for another, if they have a successful experience on the new one, that sort of moves it up the league’s tables, as it were, to what they’re going to come back to,” says Simon Jones, Conviva’s vice president of marketing.
And 40% said that if say, they had a bad experience watching a video from one service one kind of device--mobile, tablet, connected TV or PC--they would be very unlikely to try it on another kind of device.
The bottom line, Conviva says, is that “a negative experience on any supported platform can compromise all the others.” But the sheer number of devices--Jones says it’s just simple shorthand to suggest that every family member now has a private screen--creates some issues.
Content services want to give the best picture possible, but if you look away from your Android phone and see your wife’s iPod has a much better picture, that ups the ante at 1234 Your Street. The “best,” he says, “is a rapidly changing thing.”
One cheery part of this report is that Conviva concludes when doling out blame for lackluster video quality, “we discovered that consumers are substantially more sophisticated in their understanding of the video ecosystem than most industry observers expect.”
First, but not by a lot, they blame “your Internet service” provider, while second and third are nearly tied, split between the video service and the content delivery network. In short, it’s a three headed beast, though Jones was surprised as many consumers knew enough about CDNs to blame them (and maybe they do and maybe they don’t). “I thought very few would pick that," he says. "But it shows the multi-dimensional challenge.”
The most annoying video problem is a lot more definitely known: It’s buffering, for sure. That rotating circle is such a downer, far above the second biggest annoyance, the slow video starter. But Conviva’s study showed that the quality of the picture is a lot more annoying than you might think (given the almost physical feeling of dread about buffering). One out of four named it their biggest gripe. One out of three put it second.
“The stark reality is that viewers aren’t looking for one thing – they’re demanding everything,” this report says. “With premium content offered on the Web mirroring what is available through proprietary pay TV services, below TV-quality experiences are jarring, disconcerting, and off-putting to consumers.”
Jones, in our phone chat, suggests the crazy times are ahead as OTT providers proliferate. He thinks data caps could become commonplace as the FCC presides over a new road map of the net neutral Internet.
“I’m sure there are going to be bumps in the road and things we haven’t seen coming in,” he predicts. “If I as a consumer move from unlimited data, which is pretty standard in the United States, and now I have a limit, now all of a sudden I’m thinking about things I never had to think about before. Am I willing to use up my cap on this [piece of content]? I don’t know where that goes.
"Imagine if you now have consumers who are saying 'Even though I’d love to have a really clear picture resolution, I now know, because I’m smart, that if I take it down from 1080 to 780 I can watch three times as much [under the cap].' That’s a thing we haven’t had to think about before. So it will be interesting to see where that goes and where the backlash comes from, as it inevitably will.
“If I imagine the situation 18 months hence and everybody has data caps, and, and some of them [consumers] aren’t going to be using 1080, then the tracking we’ll be doing is going to help content service know what that new level of customer satisfaction is.”