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Blowing the Whistle on Bad Video Quality

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Video quality and experience experts SSIMWAVE recently did a comparative analysis of hundreds of blockbuster titles from 8 of the top U.S. streaming services and the results were striking:

  • Video quality for some assets was so bad, that not surprisingly subscribers find another title or streaming service (churn rates are up ~ 44% according to the latest Park Associates study);
  • AVODs performed worse than SVODs, despite the fact that AVOD revenue depends on viewers being glued to and engaging with content;
  • No streaming service performed well across all assets, so none of them are where subscribers and creatives expect them to be.

"The technology to measure the viewer experience and compare it across platforms is here, but the end-user video quality is not at the level that creative people and subscribers expect," said Dr. Abdul Rehman, CEO and co-founder of SSIMWAVE.

"As more new films are released on streaming services and more viewing takes place on large, high-resolution screens, quality expectations from creators and viewers are higher. We see increasing interest from studios to deliver better quality but this needs to be followed industry-wide." 

With U.S. households subscribing to three or more platforms on average, viewers can easily compare striking differences in video quality across different services—especially when the same content is available on multiple platforms. Not surprisingly, studios are increasingly delivering films directly to viewers to increase engagement and guarantee viewer experience. This is vital, given their investment in action hero brands as part of the growing $80 billion movie merchandise industry. If viewers don't engage as much with the creative, would they purchase additional products? 

"We all know content attracts viewers, and that quality is critical for engagement and viewership," said Carlos Hernandez, chief revenue officer for SSIMWAVE. "If content creators provide better quality directly to consumers, what would this mean for content distributors? Churn, consolidation, and cord-cutting might continue accelerating, and Viewer Experience is a more significant driver than meets the eye.

Some of the key highlights of the comparison study:

  • Finding #1 - Massive variability in the video quality for the same asset across different streaming services
  • Finding #2 - AVODs provide worse video quality than SVODs
  • Finding #3 - Big quality dips observed inside many of the assets

Massive Variability in Video Quality for the Same Asset Across Different Streaming Services

 SSIMWAVE crowd scene

Above: A SSIMPLUS VOD Monitor hairline comparison of two different streaming services. Would your subscribers like to watch the video quality on the left or the right? Click on image for larger version.

Above: Service Provider 1 with visibly better video quality than Service Provider 2 (below). Click on image for larger version.

SSIMWAVE image 3

Above: Service Provider 2 with lower quality than Service Provider 1 (previous image). Click on image for larger version.

AVODs Provide Worse Video Quality Than SVODs

Above: SSIMWAVE VOD Monitor hairline comparison of an AVOD service (left) with an SVOD service (right). Overall AVOD services delivered 10% lower quality than SVODs, as measured by SSIMPLUS Viewer Experience Score. Click on image for larger version.

Above: Many key details are blurred in the AVOD version of this asset. Click on image for larger version.


Above: Crisper details in the same frame from the SVOD service. Click on image for larger version.

Big Quality Dips Observed Inside Some of the Assets

Above: The SSIMPLUS VOD Monitor UI shows direct comparison in the video quality for the chosen assets. From here, the assets can be analyzed visually (by frame) by clicking on each point of the graph. Click on image for larger version. 


With a growing number of services competing for audience attention and inflation eroding purchasing power, subscribers are becoming more and more discriminating about what services they watch. Leaving quality to chance can result in poor video, subscriber dissatisfaction and ultimately lost revenue. Says SSIMWAVE CEO and co-founder Rehman, "Quality is too important to leave unmanaged."

[Editor's note: This is a vendor byline submitted by SSIMWAVE. Streaming Media accepts contributed articles based solely on their value to our readers. SSIMWAVE does commissioned benchmarking comparisons, but performed these comparative tests independently. Contact them at hello@ssimwave.com or here for more information.]


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