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Why Video Streaming Fails, and Customers Hate You Because of It

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The following is a sponsored article.

How do you know if a customer hates you? We took a look at a recent study that Erickson did where they measured stress to correlate that into feelings towards your brand when different things happen. How do you make someone stressed out so you can get a baseline? Apparently, you hook them up to a machine to measure their brain waves, and then you make them solve very complex mathematics. That’s how you get your baseline.

What does that stress look like? It’s when your brand evokes bad emotions that you don't really want to evoke unless that's your intention. For Swarmify’s purposes, we’re focused on stress-inducing online video, but we’re not measuring content; just delivery and how the content is presented. So we hook the same person up to the same machine to measure their brainwaves, and we show them the buffering spinner. What do you think they look like?

It's actually just as stressful as having them do complex mathematics. When this occurs and your customer sees that spinning wheel buffer symbol, you brand is now being associated with a complex math test which, unless the customer likes math, is really not what you want for your brand.

A more simplistic measure, which is very subjective, is how do you get a measurement of emotion from someone with no emotional filter?

We showed Dora the Explorer to a two-year-old, and made it buffer in the middle. We tried it on my daughter. Netflix streaming is great for kids, but when it breaks, it's a meltdown. They don't understand why, and we didn't actually understand its measurable effects until we looked into it.

How Do Users React to Buffering?

What does buffering cause in terms of numbers?

Limelight found that 51% of people will bail when they hit the buffering after the beginning of a video. You will lose half of your audience as soon as they see buffering. Conviva found that your average user engagement on a monthly basis actually decreases by 14 minutes if your user ever experiences buffering during that month. If your business model is based on subscriptions or term, that’s important because, usually, the more that someone is watching your content, the more likely they are not to cancel your subscription.

Akamai found that there is actually a 5% ad revenue loss for every 1% of your users who experience buffering. Depending on the percentage of your users who have experienced buffering, you could be losing substantial ad revenue.

We found that when there’s a buffering event, people watch 64% less video. We’re in a society where there are services delivering video consistently. Your customers will switch unless you really have content that’s so captivating that they’re willing to fight the buffering experience. Otherwise, they'll try something else. Some nights when the kids have gone to sleep, we’ll turn on a streaming service and it fails in the middle. So I’ll switch streaming services. My time is limited. I can’t sit and mess around and hope it gets better because, in a lot of cases, once it starts buffering, it just keeps happening on that same service. Yet, you can switch elsewhere and it’ll work fine.

Rebuffering Rates

What about the rebuffering rate? The sad fact is a lot of people don't even know what their rebuffering rate is. They have metrics, such time-to-first-byte. Those things are all very important. You want the video to start up quickly, but no one's paying attention to what happens when the video fails in the middle. We know it's bad, everybody talks about it. We do different compression, different bit rates, whatever you can to get around this, but a lot of people aren't measuring it.

You can bet Netflix is measuring this. I visited with them and they care a lot about this stuff and so should everyone else. If you're not competing with them at their level as much as you can, that's going to be bad for you. My fallback is always to go to Netflix. If someone else's service fails, I go to Netflix. Even if the content isn't what I wanted to watch, I'll find something.

People don't know their buffer rates. I’ll talk about what the buffer rates actually are industry-wide from a variety of measurements. Since people don't know their buffer rate, let's look at what the people in the industry are saying who do measure it. Conviva reports that 28% of video views have rebuffering which is buffering that happens not at the beginning of the video, but at some point later on. The beginning is a gimme.

QoS Issues

Also from the Conviva study, 60% of viewers experience quality of service issues, which means that there probably was going to be a buffering problem, but the service switched to a lower bit rate to help resolve it. That’s better than buffering in the sense that the video plays instead of making the viewer wait, although there's data that shows that if you switch the bit rate too low, it's actually a worse solution than the problem itself. People would rather watch the video buffer than have it switch to a low bit rate which is blocky and bad-looking.

You're not actually fixing the problem if you put a super-low bit rate; you're actually making it worse. Now you're giving your customer an experience that they're associating with your brand which is blurry video, and no one wants that.

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