Sensum and Akamai reveal how consumers feel towards video streaming quality


Is there anything more annoying than when your favourite programme starts to buffer? At 9pm on a Sunday night, probably not. Sensum and Akamai team up to understand the impact online video quality has on...

How many times have you closed your internet tab due to the frustration of constant video buffering? As consumers, we expect everything to run smoothly with brands and services both in the physical and digital world… so when it comes to online video streams, how do we react and feel when the viewing quality doesn’t meet our needs?

At the beginning of the year, Akamai approached Sensum to investigate the impact that online video quality has on viewing experiences.

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Main objectives

To understand how video quality affects a person’s association with the business model they are using.

To know how video quality makes consumers feel both rationally and emotionally, explicitly and implicitly.

How did we undertake the study?

With our emotion AI solutions, we studied over 1,200 consumers in the UK using different delivery methodologies. Our team set them up with either a high quality or low quality viewing experience whilst using biometric measurements (Skin Conductance or Facial Coding). An Image Association Task was also conducted to determine what positive or negative words are associated with the tested business models. Respondents were selected to take part online around the UK or on-site in Belfast. Online respondents viewed the content on their PC or Laptop and were instructed to watch it in a room with correct lighting and viewing conditions. The on-site respondents at Sensum headquarters watched the content on a 55inch 4K TV in viewing rooms that met the VQEG standards.

To remove any previous emotional association with the business models studied, three fictional brands were created:

Brand 1: Quick TV (Transactional based service - user pays for each piece of content individually)

Brand 2: 24/7 TV (Subscription service - user pays subscription fee every month)

Brand 3: Free TV (Ad supported service - user pays nothing but has to watch unskippable adverts)

The same content was used across all the brands to nullify the impact of content type on the respondents.

So what did we find?

You may not be surprised to hear...but buffering is boring! And whether it occurs on free or paid subscription services, viewers’ engagement will decrease and their relationship with the brand will be affected.

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After analysing our results, we have highlighted the top 10 statistics that we think will be of interest:

1) At the moment of buffering, happiness drops an average of 14%,

2) Negative emotions (disgust and sadness) increase an average of 8%.

3) Buffering causes users’ attention to decrease by 3% and their focus by 8%.

4) The feeling of ‘surprise’ increased by 27% during the period of buffering, and alongside the results above this constitutes a negative emotional impact on users’ experiences.

5) The effect of buffering is not so much creating negative association with the business model, but could potentially damage positive association.

6) 76% of respondents are sensitive to the quality they receive, meaning providers must provide high quality service to ensure positive emotional association is not lost.

7) Users on a smartphone are more likely to drop out of watching content quicker than Smart TV, PC or laptop users.

8) When comparing responses, the Quick TV and Free TV brands were 64% less engaging than 24/7 TV - showing the subscription service receives the greatest emotional impact from users.

9) If a consumer receives a high quality experience, their tolerance to annoyance is less than with low quality, especially with the 24/7 TV subscription model. Therefore services must deliver that expected top quality experience every time.

10) Skin conductance results show buffering decreases engagement with content by 19.8% across all business models. Comparing this with the survey responses, if this happened continuously 67% of users would cancel their service.

So what can we recommend?

Well it’s safe to say that buffering is not something UK TV lovers are fans of. Whether an online video service provides the content for free or not, they need to ensure buffering occurs as little as possible if they want to keep their customers happy... as well as literally. As consumers, the amount we watch programmes online is only growing, and the same will happen with our expectations! Using our emotion AI technology, we were able to highlight the importance of quality in this industry. Services that provide high quality viewing experience at all times will lead the market… and those who focus too much on quantity will unfortunately soon buffer themselves out of success.