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Survey: Live Streaming QoE is Good Enough for Explosive Growth; but to Compete and Win, You’ll Need More Data, Delivered Faster

When streams don’t perform, people stop watching. But just how impatient are we? The answer is contained a new consumer survey on QoE (quality-of-experience) authored by Brian Ring of Ring Digital and sponsored by Touchstream.

To view the survey, simply visit to get access. And if you are attending Akamai Edge this week, please comment or email me to get a physical copy of the mini-book!

Today’s video market is intensely competitive. There are so many skinny bundles, niche TV apps, and social streams that it’s easy to forget that the largest sum of money is still being generated by legacy pay TV operators with proprietary set-tops that deliver the highest quality video signals. In fact, while content is still a differentiator, many content catalogs are increasingly available on all of these platforms. That means viewers have reason to get even pickier about the quality of their streaming video providers.

Why should viewers tolerate stalls, buffers and playback failures when a different TV App is a thumb-tap away? As a result, the industry has seen a massive uptick in demand and innovation in video streaming technologies that measure and monitor stream quality.

New Tools & Delivery Architectures

These tools use various methods to measure the viewer experience and report events such as buffering, bitrates, and playback failures. In turn, this data can help drive decisions about which CDNs and origin servers are performing best. Some use DNS techniques, which can be clunky. Others use telemetry from the subscriber’s video player, which means you won’t see problems until after the QoE damage is done. And one or two upstarts have begun to use a manifest-based approach, which introduces a single-point-of-failure and can be challenging to scale.

At Touchstream, we support, complement and improve upon all of these methods. How?

We use server-side, synthetic polling methods to measure everywhere. We ensure your content is ready and available – including every bitrate in your encoding ladder – even before the first user clicks play. And we monitor data from multiple CDNs, customer origin and applications, which means we provide useful data for making all kinds of real-time decisions in multi-CDN and hybrid CDN architectures. It’s in that spirit — collect all the data, use every tool in the arsenal — that we decided to support Ring Digital’s QoE survey. So let’s dive in!

‍How do viewers compare their live television experiences with that of the quality and reliability of cable and satellite platforms?

Quality of Streaming vs. Set-top TV platforms

Live streaming QoE still isn’t at parity with cable and satellite TV set-top box platforms. 59% of those surveyed reported no problems with pay TV, compared to 51% for live streaming. Looking deeper into the numbers, 16% of viewers reported significant quality issues while streaming compared to just 10% while watching on a pay TV set-top box.

Why It Matters: Four Key Business Dimensions

We can analyze the two platforms by breaking them into the following four areas to better understand how much work is left to be done in order to reach parity between live streaming and pay-TV.

1. Achieving TV Scale

While there is plenty of innovation in multi-CDN and hybrid CDN approaches, IP streaming still has not advanced enough to be able to handle the massive scale of viewership that popular live sporting events require.In fact, a majority of respondents, 53% of those polled, reported that they mostly view live TV events on pay TV, not on the internet. 26% reported using equal amounts of streaming and cable / satellite TV, while just 21% reported using “mostly” internet streaming.

2. Fidelity (Look, Sound)

When respondents were asked to make a direct comparison between the picture quality and reliability of live video from an internet streaming app or website versus a set-top pay TV platform, 27% of viewers felt that streaming platforms were worse than set-top pay TV platforms; only 16% said they were better than legacy TV set-tops. And 38% reported that the platforms were roughly at parity. This puts live streaming far closer to parity with TV than you might have guessed.

3. Operations

Due to its novice status, live streaming services are still working out plenty of kinks in the operations process. Over the past five years, tremendous progress has been made. However, the complexity and difficulty of managing and operating hybrid CDN and multi CDN architectures has grown.But one thing still missing is the speed at which problems are resolved. Above, we discussed that 51% of viewers exited the video after 2 – 3 problems. In fact, 9% stopped watching immediately and 19% stopped after just a single re-buffer.

To find out more about how we can help you improve your stream monitoring to improve QoE, schedule a demo now.