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  • Writer's pictureRussell Vilardi

How to Ensure the Best Video Quality of Experience (QoE)

What is video quality of experience—and why does it matter? OTT providers must deliver higher-quality playback that meets or exceeds viewers' increasingly high expectations. It's all about improving the video quality of experience by any and all means possible.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Video quality of experience (QoE) describes the quality of the overall viewing experience

  • Rebuffering, slow start-up times, and other playback issues affect video QoE

  • To improve QoE, start with high-quality content, choose the right resolution, and use higher or variable bitrate encoding

  • Penthera's solutions—Fastplay, and PlayAssure —help minimize last-mile issues that affect QoE

What is Video Quality of Experience—and Why is it Important?

Video quality of experience, or QoE, describes the overall viewing experience based on several performance indicators. A poor QoE can cause viewer churn while a good QoE creates viewer loyalty.

Viewers today have come to expect higher-quality picture and sound. High-definition television has only been widely available for about twenty years, but since then, content providers and hardware manufacturers have raised the ante with 4K and now 8K video. Audio quality has also dramatically improved, moving from simple stereo to 5.1-channel surround sound to fully immersive Dolby Atmos with a 7.1-channel surround.

Viewers accustomed to this continual increase in audio and video quality can quickly become disillusioned with the spotty quality of streaming video. Not only are some services still streaming in basic HD or SD quality, with stereo sound, but these internet-based services also suffer from a variety of quality problems, from startup lag to rebuffering or even unstable or lost connectivity.

Not surprisingly, viewers' expectations of streaming video quality are quite high. Digital TV Europe's Industry Survey 2020 found that most viewers (51.1%) expect streaming video quality to be higher than broadcast TV qualityand only 5.5% would accept a lower quality of experience than broadcast television.

Importance of video streaming attributes

Is Streaming Video Marketing Effective?

Nielsen polled viewers of streaming video services and found several factors that contributed to their viewing satisfaction. The most important factors were:

  • Cost (84% of respondents cited this as extremely/very important)

  • Ease of use (81%)

  • Streaming/playback quality (77%)

These factors were more important than the content OTT services offer, which only 71% of viewers cited.

Average hours of online video watched per week.

What do viewers do when they experience poor video quality? They switch the figurative channel. TechRadar study shows that half of all viewers abandon a poor-quality stream in 90 seconds or less. That's why video quality of experience is important.

6 Ways to Improve Video QoE

Maintaining a high video quality of experience is important—but how is it done? There are several things providers can do to improve their viewers' QoE, and here are a half-dozen of the most effective.

(In the following video, Hulu VP of Software Development Nick Brookins discusses how Hulu delivers more reliable streaming to its viewers.)

How Hulu delivers reliable streams at scale

Start with High-Quality Content

You could have the best streaming infrastructure in the industry but still provide poor quality of experience if the source content is inferior. Always use the best possible prints and transfers so that even if the quality deteriorates through the process, the result is still as good as delivered. In this age where viewers expect a pristine experience, using faded, scratched, pan-and-scan third-generation prints is no longer acceptable.

Choose the Right Resolution

Streaming at the highest possible resolution isn't always the right approach, especially with older content. Programming originally recorded in standard definition benefits little from upscaling to HD or 4K. Sometimes defaulting to the original lower resolution is the best approach.

In addition, some OTT services operate just fine at standard 1080p HD without offering higher-quality 4K content. This is especially true with ad-supported services, where viewers happily accept (slightly) lower-quality audio and video because they're not paying high monthly subscription fees. It's a matter of meeting viewer expectations, which differ from service to service.

Use Higher Bitrate Encoding

Some OTT providers default to lower bitrate encoding in a mistaken attempt to optimize playback on low-bandwidth Internet connections or to reduce their bandwidth and storage costs. The problem is, low bandwidth almost always results in poor picture quality.

If you want the best possible picture, you need to encode at the highest possible bandwidth—especially with high-quality and fast-moving content. The best approach employs variable bitrate encoding so that lower bitrates can be used for more static content, reserving higher bitrates for more demanding content.

Minimize Startup Delays with FastPlay

Startup delays contribute significantly to viewer dissatisfaction. Viewers are unwilling to wait even a few seconds for a streaming program to start. If a program doesn't start immediately, they'll abandon it before the stream begins.

For that reason, providers must work to minimize startup delays. One way to do this is with technology that prepositions video elements for a service's most popular content, such as Penthera's FastPlay. With FastPlay, playback starts just a half-second after the viewer presses the play button.

Reduce Rebuffering with PlayAssure

Low internet bandwidth and weak home Wi-Fi networks often cause rebuffering, which is another major cause of viewer dissatisfaction. The most effective way to reduce rebuffering is to build a more extensive real-time buffer on a viewer's streaming device. This is how Penthera's PlayAssure works, effectively eliminating most last-mile buffering issues.

Overcome Last-Mile Issues with Download

Last-mile issues, such as constrained bandwidth, are a particular problem with mobile devices. One effective way around these issues is to encourage viewers to download videos to their devices instead of streaming them. Penthera Download accomplishes this. It is a sophisticated automated download solution that gives providers complete control over how users download their content. Videos downloaded with Penthera Download aren't subject to those problematic last-mile issues at all.

Let Penthera Help Maximize Your Video Quality of Experience

When you want to ensure the best video QoE for your viewers, turn to the experts at Penthera. Our solutions minimize buffering, startup failure, and other issues that negatively impact the viewing experience. There's a reason more than 100 million devices in 36 countries employ our solutions—we help create a better quality viewing experience.

Contact Penthera today to learn more about how we can help you improve your video quality of experience!


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