Buffering, Poor Video Quality Undercut Streaming Subscriber Loyalty

(Image credit: Bitmovin)

DENVER—Buffering video and poor-quality video can cost streaming services dearly—as much as $390 million per month, according to research from Bitmovin, a streaming infrastructure and adaptive streaming player developer.

Poor quality video and buffering can be dealbreakers as U.S. streaming subscribers get a little pickier about their streaming subscriptions, especially in the midst of belt tightening, the company said. Nearly half (47%) said they have unsubscribed due to buffering. The research also found 27% said they would drop service due to poor video quality.

Bitmovin estimated the lost monthly revenue being as much as $390 million a month based on there being 122.3 million U.S. households, 85% of which subscribe to at least one streaming service. These subscribers pay an average monthly subscription fee of $7.99, with nearly half dropping subscriptions due to buffering. 

Subscribers will consider cancelling service when their buffering wait reaches 13.5 seconds on average. However, subscribers are more tolerant with certain types of content. For example, religious content subscribers said they would consider cancelling if waits exceed 15.5 seconds on average; eSports and eLearning, 15.4; and paid-for streaming services after 14 seconds, the research found.

Males were less tolerant of buffering than females. Male subscribers to paid services said they would tolerate only 13 seconds of buffering before contemplating cancellation, while female subscribers would put up with buffering for 14.9 seconds, it said.

With OTT services like Netflix announcing an ad-supported tier, the research polled people on their reaction. It found that on average 68% would happily pay a little bit extra for a subscription to not encounter advertising. That number climbs to 78% among 18-to-35-year-olds. A total of 58% will tolerate ads on free streaming services.

Among the other research findings: 25% of Americans value the ability to use streaming services across all devices and chose that as one of their three top reasons to keep subscribing; and connected TVs (CTVs) are the primary viewing platform at 67%; mobile phones are second at 49%, laptops third at 25%, and tablets came in last at 23%.

“We are in an era of technology-driven experiences, and so, within this tech-savvy generation, streamers need to go above and beyond just offering entertaining content. The consumer, especially when paying for these services, also wants a seamless and enjoyable experience. Streamers need to realize that it’s not just great content that will help them win out but also top-notch delivery of its content,” said Bitmovin CEO and founder Stefan Lederer.

An external research agency conducted the research and provided results from 2,000 U.S. respondents, the company said.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.