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Frustrated Video Viewers Often Don't Come Back, Finds Study
A large-scale study using Akamai data quantifies how often disappointed viewers leave a site for good, and how long they're willing to wait for video.
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Thanks to a study conducted an the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, video professionals finally know how many viewers will stay away from a site after a poor video viewing experience. According to Ramesh K. Sitaraman, a computer science professor at the university and an Akamai fellow, viewers are 2.3 percent less likely to return to a site after getting frustrated by a video and leaving.

Sitaraman's study is the first large-scale study of online video viewing behavior. He and S. Shunmuga Krishnan, who is employed at Akamai, analyzed 23 million video views and 216 minutes of video playing time conducted by 6.7 million unique viewers around the world. The data was supplied by Akamai.

The study looked at issues such as video freezing, and quantified how much less engaged viewers are when the video they're watching freezes. If an online video freezes for one percent of its duration, the viewer will watch five percent less on average.

Viewers have little patience for videos that don't start immediately. After a two second wait, viewers begin to turn away. For every additional one second wait, the abandonment rate goes up by nearly six percent. That rate isn't consistent, however: viewers have more patience with higher-value content, such as movies, than with brief clips. Also, mobile viewers have more patience that home users with fiber connections, because they have different expectations. Those with speedy connections are used to fast startup times and tune away immediately when their expectations aren't met.

This study, titled "Video Stream Quality Impacts Viewer Behavior: Inferring Causality using Quasi-Experimental Designs," will be presented tomorrow at the Internet Measurement Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

"Anyone who owns media needs to know about this, because they need to know how their viewers behave," says Sitaraman.