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Quality boosts revenues for OTT providers

Tolerance of poor OTT quality is falling fast as consumption rises, according to a survey of UK online TV services.

The report, from QA (Quality Assurance) specialist Conviva, found that only 23.5 percent of video delivered in the UK during 2012 was deemed of acceptable quality, and that 31 percent of UK viewers had experienced playback problems. Conviva’s 2013 Viewer Experience Report also identified a direct correlation between video quality and level of online viewing. It found that viewers watch 250-percent more video when they have an optimal experience defined as fast start-up, with little or no buffering and a high sustained bit rate for good resolution and visual clarity. In 2011, a 1-percent increase in buffering resulted in three minutes less time spent viewing during each session involving long-form content. By 2012, that same 1-percent increase led to eight minutes being lost for similar content, highlighting the rising expectations.

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Conviva went on to suggest that by eliminating buffering and improving video quality across all devices, a typical premium long-form video on demand (VOD) provider, with ten million views per month, would increase revenue by almost £1.9 million ($3 million) per month.

“The opportunity for online video publishers and operators is unprecedented as the number of viewers watching streamed content is growing each month, especially premium and paid-for video,” commented Hui Zhang, co-founder and CEO of Conviva.

The survey found that viewing on mobile phones and connected TVs was growing significantly, while iPhones and iPads accounted for approximately 12 percent of total online streams played globally in April 2012, leading Android devices by 10 percent. The London Olympics came in the middle of the year, creating a surge in online viewing, and at a stroke, boosting expectations over quality because of the BBC’s successful streaming across PCs, tablets, smart phones and connected TVs. This led to sharply reduced tolerance of poor quality among consumers of other OTT offerings.

The survey refutes the earlier hope among some OTT providers that viewers would tolerate significantly lower quality for OTT than they would on the big screen, just as they have long accepted a reduced standard of voice quality on cellular services as a tradeoff for mobility. Now, it looks like instead OTT quality expectations are steadily converging with those over traditional linear broadcast services.

However, Conviva has identified that devices, rather than the delivery network, are responsible for some of the quality issues. But, there is scope for QA vendors to address issues on the devices as well as the network through real time monitoring of quality along the whole end-to-end path.