Streaming viewers today face a host of real-world OTT performance issues that diminish their viewing experience. These issues include:
Playback errors (errors that cause crashes in playback devices or prematurely end program playback)
Poor quality picture (low resolution, blocky picture, etc.)
Rebuffering (frozen or stuttering playback, the biggest frustration for 58% of viewers; often results in stream abandonment)
Slow startup times (when the start of playback is delayed beyond normal expectations)
Video start failure (when a viewer's attempt to start playing a video ends in failure)
All of these issues can lead to stream abandonment, switching to alternative services, and canceled subscriptions.
The streaming industry is becoming increasingly competitive, and poor OTT performance can cost you viewers, subscribers, and advertisers. To help you improve that performance, here are five strategies that you should consider.
Streaming video performance impacts OTT success.
Poor OTT performance results from insufficient bandwidth and bit, inefficient CDNs, and player/user device problems.
To maximize OTT performance, move to multiple CDNs, minimize startup delays, reduce rebuffering, and increase the average bitrate.
You can also improve OTT performance by enabling and encouraging download video.
Streaming Performance Impacts OTT Success
The streaming video market continues to grow. According to Deloitte, 82% of U.S. consumers have at least one streaming video subscription. However, about a third of all viewers cancel at least one of their subscriptions each month, hinting at underlying issues in the industry.
There are many reasons a viewer might cancel an OTT subscription, the most common having to do with cost and content. According to Vimeo, however, 6% of cancellations are due to technical issues, such as rebuffering, slow startup times, or poor picture quality.
Given how easy it is to switch providers – and the increasing number of competitors in the space – OTT providers cannot afford ongoing streaming issues. Too much buffering or too many video start failures will cause consumers to unsubscribe and take their business to another provider.
What Affects OTT Performance?
Several technical issues can affect OTT streaming performance. All of these technical issues contribute to viewer dissatisfaction, which can be measured in the number of subscription cancellations, among other metrics.
Insufficient bandwidth plays a huge part in poor OTT performance. This is becoming a bigger issue as more and more devices in the home share the limited bandwidth provided by most ISPs – and as more video content is delivered in 4K and 8K formats that guzzle bandwidth. If the viewer doesn't have enough bandwidth in the home, they'll experience rebuffering, poor video quality, and other major issues.
Inadequate CDN Performance
The OTT provider's content delivery network (CDN) can also cause streaming playback issues. This is especially true if there are too few edge servers in the network or if the edge servers haven't stored the requested content.
Another factor in poor OTT performance is the use of video compression that results in low bitrates. Lowering bitrates to save on bandwidth can result in laggy, choppy, or low-resolution playback.
Player/User Device Problems
Not all OTT streaming issues originate with OTT providers. Issues with the devices that viewers use to access OTT services can also contribute to an unacceptable viewing experience. This can include issues with streaming media players from Roku, Amazon, and others; smart TVs; computers; smartphones; and other devices used by viewers.
5 Strategies to Maximize OTT Performance
Here are some of the most significant strategies that have been proven successful.
1. Move to Multiple CDNs
Given that poor CDN performance can contribute to all manner of playback issues for viewers, many OTT services are moving to a multi-CDN approach that utilizes multiple CDNs from different providers. Using multiple CDNs improves network capacity, especially for audience peaks, which contributes to improved streaming performance.
2. Minimize Startup Delays
Decreasing startup delays is essential to improving viewer satisfaction. Few viewers today are willing to accept long startup times before getting to the programs they want to watch. If the startup time is too long, viewers will simply abandon the stream before it begins.
OTT providers are turning to technologies such as Penthera's Fastplay that preposition video elements for the most popular content. Fastplay enables playback to start just a half-second after the viewer presses the Play button.
3. Reduce Rebuffering
Rebuffering is typically caused by low Internet bandwidth and weak home Wi-Fi networks, although it can also result from issues at the provider or the CDN. Rebuffering can be reduced or eliminated by building out a real-time buffer on the viewer's streaming device, as enabled by PlayAssure technology. Eliminating rebuffering, whatever the cause, can vastly increase viewer satisfaction and reduce subscription abandonment.
4. Increase Average Bitrate
Today's plethora of OTT services are eating up a tremendous amount of internet bandwidth – and, unless a subscriber has gigabyte internet service, bandwidth to the home isn't keeping up. Many OTT providers manage the consumer bandwidth challenge – as well as their own bandwidth issues – by reducing the bitrate of their compressed content. This, however, can cause additional issues, including poor video quality. The better solution is to keep average bitrates high so that the source video, at least, is of sufficient quality.
5. Extend the Edge with Download Video
Because so many technical issues are essential last-mile issues, one of the keys to improving streaming performance is to move the content closer to the viewer. This is what CDNs attempt to do, but the concept can be carried further by embracing download video, as offered by Penthera Download. Downloading video extends the edge of the network to consumers' viewing devices. Downloaded video content starts immediately and doesn't suffer from buffering and other technical issues common in today's streaming world. Viewers get an uninterrupted viewing experience and providers record longer sessions times, improved engagement, and more loyal subscribers – all of which are important in the growing ad-supported streaming environment.
Let Penthera Help Maximize Your OTT Performance
When you want to maximize your service's OTT performance, turn to the experts at Penthera. Our streaming solutions eliminate last-mile issues such as buffering and startup failure that can negatively impact the viewing experience and cost your company viewers. Our AVOD, Download, Fastplay, and PlayAssure software are currently used by Paramount+, Showtime, and other OTT services and deployed on more than 100 million devices in 36 countries.
Contact Penthera today to learn how we can help you maximize your OTT performance and grow your streaming business!