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  • Writer's pictureScott Halpert (VP Ad Products + Business Development)

No longer just a QoE metric: Start-up times and revenue intertwined for streamers



In today’s competitive streaming space that offers consumers an array of options, data show premium Video on Demand streaming media companies must focus on offering the highest quality streaming experience possible. To do this, premium publishers have migrated to using Server-Side Ad Insertion (SSAI) because of the “broadcast quality” experience it delivers. Along with this needed transition, however, comes an increase in start-up times, which now has these publishers looking for solutions that speed this process up.


A rather simple metric, start-up time is essentially how much time elapses between a user pressing “play” and the first frame of that video showing up on their screen. While simple, start-up times can have huge revenue implications for streamers due to stream abandonment from impatient viewers.


How impatient? Bitmovin wrote last year that after 10 seconds of a start-up delay, more than half of a streamer’s audience leaves and only 8% of those users return within 24 hours. Additionally, if it takes longer than 2 seconds to load a video, viewers will start to leave. After 5 seconds, more than 20% of users abandon, and with each additional second of delay, 6% of your users leave and the majority will never come back. 


For VOD publishers, ongoing and growing stream abandonment due to slow start-up times is detrimental to meeting revenue goals. When a viewer drops from the stream, none of the scheduled ads are viewed, which results in decreased render rates and wasted revenue opportunity. Publishers already struggle with render rates, 30-50% is common, so slow start-up times are compounding this problem.  


With all this in mind, it’s clear start-up time is not just a quality of experience metric. In 2024, it’s a revenue-related metric that needs to be focused on immediately.


To level set, there are some factors contributing to slow start-up times, such as a consumer’s internet bandwidth, that are outside of a publisher’s control. There are multiple factors publishers do control to improve their start-up times, however, one of the most notable and important being the ad-insertion process.  


With SSAI, the ad-insertion process occurs as the manifest is being generated and before playback can begin, since all ads need to be in place in the manifest prior to providing said manifest to the player. This can be a time consuming process. On average, the round trip from an ad stitcher (making the request for the ads) through the ad server (making the ad decisions) and back to the ad stitcher (receiving the ad decisions, identifying the associated ABR assets for those ads and inserting them into the manifest) can easily exceed 3 seconds. This is in addition to all of the other processes that occur in preparing the video’s manifest.


While standard SSAI does offer limitations, enhancing SSAI with our award-winning 2nd Look solution provides the best of both worlds by enabling the broadcast quality of SSAI with the ad decisioning flexibility and reduced start-up time capabilities of CSAI. Our partners are seeing a 50%+ improvement in start-up times while also seeing a significant increase in revenue thanks to higher CPMs as a result of fill rates exceeding 90%.   


Email us today to learn how you can enhance SSAI with 2nd Look and drive revenue through improved start-up times and higher CPMs. 

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