Crappy streamed video makes us sad and disgusted, research suggests

Do you get the buffering blues?

Low resolution video with buffering breaks disgusts viewers, according to research by Akamai.

Using galvanic skin response, which measures sweat through electrical conductance to evaluate physiological engagement, and facial coding, to measure emotional response, researchers found that viewers of low quality video displayed less engagement with the content and reacted with surprise, disgust and sadness.

In one test conducted by research firm Sensum, 1200 people were divided into two groups. The first group was shown a video clip delivered at high, 2160p UHD resolution, with no buffering. The second group was shown the same video at a lower resolution – 1080p HD streamed at 1.6Mbps – with a re-buffering event occurring during a key scene 46 seconds in.

During the relatively pedestrian portion of the video, participants watching the higher quality resolution version – with a clip attached to their finger to measure sweat – expressed an engagement score 10.4 per cent higher than those watching in low quality resolution.

When the video content got more intense, this engagement disparity rose to 19.8 per cent.

A second test used facial coding to gauge viewer reactions, a method that measures and codifies momentary changes in people’s expressions to reveal their emotions.

Two videos featuring the same content were shown to two subsets of participants, but one video had a two second buffering event during a scene of high intensity.

At the moment of the disruption, the group watching the buffering video displayed a 27 per cent increase in ‘surprise’, a nine per cent increase in ‘disgust’ and a seven per cent rise in ‘sadness’.

‘Happiness’ dropped 14 per cent and ‘focus’ eight per cent compared to the other group.

Traditional surveys followed the tests, finding that 76 per cent of participants said they would stop using a service if issues such as buffering occurred several times.

This response was similar across the three major over-the-top (OTT) streaming business models – subscription video on demand (SVOD), ad-supported video on demand (AVOD), and transactional video on demand (TVOD) – according to the survey.

No place for bad video

The results serve as a warning to OTT video streaming providers, Akamai said.

“This unique research shows there is no place for low-quality video in any streaming business model,” said Ian Munford, director of product marketing, media solutions, at Akamai.

“The premium online video market is extremely competitive; the battle for revenue share is intense and subscriber acquisition costs are increasing, making differentiators like quality of experience more important than ever. Service providers cannot take risks with streaming experiences that are compromised by low resolution or buffering. They must provide consistent, high-quality experiences to help retain subscribers and reduce acquisition costs.”

Not only does the business providing the content suffer from low quality video, viewer have a negative reaction to the actual content too, the report states:

“It is not only the video service brand that suffers when viewers have a bad experience. Perception of the video they are watching suffers too. Story tellers want to take their viewers on a journey that captivates and enthralls them. Unfortunately, our research shows how a low-quality experience can completely derail the story-telling process.”

The growing popularity of OTT video streaming services is a key driver in Australian internet users' increasing data consumption, NBN told a Sydney summit in March.

A recent report by analysts Ovum predicted that by 2022, seven million Australian households will have SVOD services – up from the current figure of 2.6 million. SVOD revenue in Australia will grow from $460 million in 2016 to $1 billion by 2022, the group forecasts.

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