The current state of affairs has created a huge viewing demand, putting an immense amount of pressure on streaming companies. More and more people have been bingeing their favourite content at home. In the last month, streaming levels were up 73% percent in the US and similar statistics were reported in Europe. With these unprecedented rates in mind, ensuring that customers can easily stream content from their home network has never been more important for streaming companies.
Comcast identified that even daytime streaming is up 32% since the COVID-19 crisis. Certain markets like Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago are seeing as much as a 60% spike. VOD viewing is up 25% versus last year and the weekly linear video consumption is now 64 hours per household (up 4 hours).
Obviously, customers are seeking more content to stream and they expect the quality to be excellent. Streaming businesses need to ensure that they are able to meet these rising demands, without sacrificing quality that can eventually lead to churn and affect their bottom line. This doesn’t have to be an either, or situation.
Is it important to adjust bitrates? What should services do to ensure their customers are getting a good Viewer Experience?
SSIMWAVE can help by empowering you to make viewer-driven decisions. SSIMPLUS, the most accurate perceptual quality metric, evaluates the Viewer Experience based on a scientific understanding of the human visual system. SSIMWAVE can provide you with the needed data to understand how bitrate decisions will affect the end-viewer. If you’re delivering to customers in areas where stay-at-home measures have not been relaxed and working from home will continue in the next few months, optimizing video ladders can help improve customer experiences. Simply removing the top profile isn’t a smart solution. The result will be that premium customers will have a bad viewer experience, and video players under varying network conditions may still try to use a higher rendition. This is something that will absolutely negatively impact viewers.
Some companies are offering free services as a sign of good faith during this pandemic. However, due to quality issues they are also seeing higher service calls, resulting in both costs to stream the content and additional costs to handle customer service issues. It’s hard to offer excellent quality to everyone without adjusting the delivery.
The New Normal
Since companies need to pay for each and every bit streamed, optimizing cost for content delivery is also vital to ensuring business stability, especially if you’re providing AVOD. Expect your delivery costs to keep going up as viewers stream more and more content. Content delivery charges for the entertainment companies can also get considerably higher when they go over their agreed CDN peak traffic ratios.
To deliver a consistently good Viewer Experience and optimize content delivery costs, services should examine these four business guidelines:
1. Reducing Delivery Costs
Instead of uninformed bitrate reduction, (across the board removal of the top profile), SSIMWAVE can help maximize quality by examining the content’s complexity and identifying optimal bitrate levels needed to achieve the desired quality. On average, a large percentage of video assets can be delivered at much lower data rates without any perceptual quality loss. SSIMWAVE’s technology knows what “good” looks like. This intelligence can provide savings up to 50% of CDN costs by lowering selected content bitrates without a discernible quality difference to viewers.
2. Improved Viewer Experiences
With more people online, content quality can suffer. While we’ve heard capacity isn’t a problem, going online at some points in the day has proven otherwise. To ensure content is delivered without technical hiccups, having a good understanding of how content files will match the delivery environment is important. Premium viewers still deserve a premium experience. Are they getting this? In Europe a number of media companies willingly reduced bitrate, but this ended up impacting more premium viewers than others on slower networks. While cutting bitrates can be helpful, doing this with proper insight, geographical and customer segmentation (rather than just mathematically dropping data rates), is critical.
We can help you check if the Viewer Experience delivered to everyone, whether it be from premium or long tail viewing is what you intended. After all, if your competitors’ content looks better than yours, this could result in an even worse problem: churn.
SSIMWAVE can easily identify if there are any issues without impacting your video workflow because the SSIMPLUS probes report back on the Viewer Experience without touching the files in any way. With SSIMWAVE, you can eliminate the guesswork and have actual data-based confirmation of what kind of experience your subscribers are having. The result? Conservation of resources, without sacrificing quality.
3. Maximizing Ad Revenue
While overall advertising revenue may have dropped due to the cancellation of sporting events, maintaining the current levels of ad inventory has never been more important. When video players try to play the highest quality videos for a customer’s network, they can start to buffer if availability is inconsistent. Increased congestion on delivery networks due to more viewing of higher bitrate content results in increased latency. When this flows down to ad servers, it becomes highly probable that ads will time out. Ad slots will go unfilled simply because the ad server missed their window to retrieve the ad, squandering opportunities to make money. Selecting the right bitrate means the AVOD content will work within the network conditions, limit latency and be more successful at meeting high fill rates.
4. Network Capacity
ISPs may selectively slow video content and prioritize the transport of other types of data due to congestion.If any of your service areas experience this, SSIMWAVE can help you optimize content in advance, mitigating any potential ISP disruptions.
At the moment, adjusting for network capacity in different geographies makes sense in order to help services deliver the desired Viewer Experience. Now is the time to evaluate this on a regional basis to keep live and on-demand content delivery hassle-free for viewers.
Following these 4 guidelines will help ensure your streaming business is problem-proof.
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Reach out to us if you want to deliver excellent Viewer Experience while
saving more than 40% on delivery costs.