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  • Writer's pictureRussell Vilardi

How to Get More Control Over OTT Video User Experience

For your OTT service to be successful, you must provide a high-quality OTT video user experience that satisfies all of a viewer's various wants and needs.

Viewers want a large variety of appealing and engaging content, of course, but they also want a seamless viewing experience. They don't want their viewing interrupted by constant buffering or a low-resolution, pixelated picture. In fact, 76% of respondents in a recent survey say they'd stop using a service if a problem such as rebuffering occurred several times during an important scene.

Unfortunately, OTT video providers continue to face technical challenges in delivering their content. Rebuffering, slow startup times, and assorted playback errors plague streamers around the globe.

What can you do to eliminate these issues and provide a superior user experience to your users? It's all about bandwidth and working around known obstacles.

Quick Takeaways

  • Delivering a consistent and superior video user experience is one of the most important factors in OTT success.

  • Some technical issues that can adversely affect the user experience include insufficient bandwidth, problems with viewers' devices, and poor CDN performance.

  • To gain more control over the video experience, OTTs can employ a number of techniques, including embracing tools or software that speed up startup times and eliminate rebuffering and video quality degradation.

Why a Superior Video User Experience is Essential to OTT Success

A survey of senior OTT industry players by Digital TV Europe (DTVE) found that a consistent, bandwidth-proof user experience was one of the top three elements determining the success of an OTT service, with 95.7% of respondents saying it was very or moderately important. The top two factors were support for content across devices and support for a flexible and attractive interface.

The same survey found that the overall quality of experience (QoE) was the number-one element differentiating a video service from competitors' offerings, especially in an environment where OTTs offer similar programming. In today's evolving market where OTTs differentiate themselves with original programming, unique content is increasingly important – although how that content is streamed and presented remains a critical factor.

In short, providing a high-quality video user experience is one of the most important things on which an OTT service should focus. Content is still king – but it matters less if viewers can't reliably access it.

Challenges to Providing a Superior OTT Video User Experience

Viewers can experience any number of issues that affect their QoE. These issues manifest themselves in the following trackable metrics:

  • Availability – whether selected content is available to viewers

  • Bitrate – can affect resolution and video quality if it gets low enough

  • Playback errors – when the video ends prematurely, or the playback device crashes

  • Rebuffering – stuttering or frozen playback

  • Startup time – how long it takes a selected video to begin playback

  • Video start failure – how many times a viewer attempt to start a video ends in failure before the video plays a single video segment

Many factors can cause poor QoE metrics, all of them technical in nature. Chief among them are: insufficient bandwidth, issues with the viewer's player or device, poor content delivery network (CDN) performance, insufficient user data, and poor video processing or compression.

Insufficient Bandwidth

The number one technical issue facing OTT service providers is that of insufficient bandwidth. This is particularly problematic with long-form premium content, where 67.8% of providers surveyed by DTVE said it had a very significant impact on user experience. Another 29% said it had a moderate impact. Unfortunately, there is little an OTT provider can do to increase user bandwidth.

Player/User Device Problems

Issues with viewers' streaming media players, smartphone, and other playback devices is the number two cause of poor user experience, noted as very significant by 52.7% of DTVE's respondents. (Another 41.9% said it was moderately significant.) As with insufficient bandwidth, there is little an OTT provider can do to alleviate technical issues on the user's end.

Poor CDN Performance

Poor performance of the OTT's content delivery network is another major cause of user experience issues. A CDN is a network of geographically distributed servers that OTTs use to deliver content to their viewers. CDNs, when working properly, eliminate any bottlenecking that might occur if content were delivered from a single server to users across the country (or the world).

Several factors can affect CDN performance. This includes too few edge servers (resulting in server overload) and not having the requested content stored on the edge servers.

The following video from IBM explains how CDNs work for websites – the same principles apply to video delivery over the Internet.

Insufficient User Data

The quality of the user experience can also be affected by the information the OTT receives about that experience. An insufficient flow of data about the user experience can restrict an OTT from delivering the best and most appropriate service to the viewer.

Poor Video Processing/Compression

Finally, inadequate video processing or compression technology can negatively impact the video user experience. This can cause choppy or laggy video that impedes viewer enjoyment of the affected programming.

5 Ways to Better Control the OTT Video User Experience

Obviously, OTTs cannot control all the factors that might contribute to a poor video user experience. An OTT cannot provide all of its users with higher-bandwidth connections or more reliable streaming devices. However, there are approaches an OTT can take to mitigate a poor viewing experience.

1. Change CDNs

To deal with continuing CDN performance issues, consider moving to a more robust CDN provider. Look for a CDN that embraces edge scaling, with more servers in more locations. Adding storage to edge nodes provides even better performance. Multi-CDN strategies can enable you to work with multiple CDNs and direct traffic to those that are providing the best performance.

2. Employ Content-Aware Encoding

Content-aware encoding (CAE) enables encoding parameters to be adjusted in real time. CAE uses AI technology for more intelligent and efficient encoding. The result is speedier encoding and better QoE.

3. Use Download Technology to Eliminate Rebuffering

Rebuffering, caused by low bandwidth and poor Wi-Fi connections, is one of the most frustrating issues for viewers. The problem can be eliminated with Penthera's PlayAssure, which builds out a more extensive real-time buffer on the user's device during the streaming session.

4. Speed Up Startup Times with Fastplay

Long startup times cause 18% of viewers to abandon streams before they even start. Penthera's new Fastplay technology reduces startup times by prepositioning video elements for content that is most likely to be viewed. With Fastplay, playback starts half a second after the viewer presses play.

5. Embrace Full Downloads on Mobile Apps

Despite your best efforts, smooth video streaming can still be thwarted by issues beyond your control, especially on mobile devices. The only surefire way to ensure the highest-quality playback is to let users download videos instead of streaming them. Penthera Download is a sophisticated automated download solution that gives OTTs complete control over how their content is downloaded.

Let Penthera Give You More Control Over the OTT Video User Experience

Penthera has more than 15 years of experience in helping OTT providers gain more control over the video user experience. We offer a suite of streaming solutions designed to eliminate last-mile streaming issues, such as rebuffering and slow startup times. Our solutions help reduce stream abandonment, improve viewer engagement, and provide the best possible experience for your users.

Contact Penthera today to learn how you can gain more control over the OTT video user experience!


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