Think Streaming Will Replace Cable TV? This Data On Streaming Quality Proves Otherwise

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 11.06.27 PMThese days, many want to suggest that cable TV offerings will be “killed” or “replaced” by content services being delivered over the Internet using content delivery networks. While that’s not reality, those who make these suggestions speak as if the quality of the content delivered online is the same as what consumers get from cable TV. However, thanks to Conviva, we have data from some of the largest streamers on the web, that shows how difficult it really is to deliver video on the Internet, with reliability. In fact, of the 22.6 billion streams Conviva monitored in 2012, 60% of them had quality issues. 60%!

The quality of online video isn’t even close to what cable TV delivers today when it comes to quality and reliability – yet many don’t want to admit this as it goes against their agenda. I like data because it proves what’s really going on in the market and when the sample size is so large, like what Conviva has shared, no rational person can argue with it. So rather than debate or speculate what may or may not work, we have the data to actually know.

In 2012, Conviva analyzed 22.6 billion streams for some of the largest content owners on the web including Netflix, ESPN, HBO, Viacom, VEVO, MLB, USA, NBC and many others. The data they share comes from content owners and syndicators who probably account for at least 75% of the video traffic on the web today, outside of Google. These content owners who use Conviva’s service add a small bit of code to their player, which allows Conviva to collect and monitor the user’s video experience, in real-time, and sends that data back to Conviva’s console. Last quarter, Conviva shared a lot of the data they collected in 2012 and here are some of the key findings:

  • 60% of all streams experienced quality degradation. Viewer interruption from re-buffering affected 20.6% of streams, 19.5% were impacted by slow video startup and 40% were plagued by grainy or low-resolution picture quality caused by low bitrates.
  • In 2011 a 1% increase in buffering resulted in 3 minutes less of viewing time per view of long-form content. In 2012, that identical 1% increase led to 8 minutes lost in viewing time per view for similar content.
  • The start time for a video to launch is critical. If video start time exceeds 2 seconds, the number of people that abandon viewing dramatically increases—400% for long-form VOD and for live content, abandoned views increase 140%.
  • Viewers with a buffer-free experience watch 226% more and are four times more likely to stay and watch if video starts in 2 seconds or less
  • For live video streams, viewers not impacted by buffering watch 10 times longer.
  • By improving buffering performance and video quality, a typical long form VOD provider, (with 10 million views per month) will increase revenue by as much as $1.4 million monthly.
  • In 2012, 124.8 billion minutes were spent in buffering.
  • More than 18% of viewers requesting a live stream abandoned before the video started—more than 4 times higher than long-form VOD.

Conviva’s data shows that a staggering 60% of views were impacted by stalls, low resolution or buffering. 39.3% of streams were impacted by buffering and 4% never started. That’s over 900 million streams that never started! Ironically, for all the talk of HD, Conviva’s data showed that many consumers are watching on a screen capable of displaying high-quality (HQ) video, yet 63% are viewing below HQ resolution. And when it comes to buffering, for a live event lasting 90 minutes, Conviva’s data showed that 10.8 minutes of that content didn’t work thanks to buffering. Can you imagine turning on the TV to watch a movie and not being able to see 12% of it? Consumers would not stand for it.

So for those that want to talk to cable TV as being some sort of outdated technology that’s going to get “replaced” by streaming media based services, we have the data to prove otherwise. It’s not up for debate. Cable TV is still able to deliver a better quality user experience, nearly every time, over Internet video. You may not like the price you have to pay for cable TV, but the technology still surpasses Internet video because it works, it’s easy to use and you know what HD means. On the web, anything goes and you never know what you will get, as Conviva’s data proves.

A quick thank you to Conviva for sharing this data with the industry. If more companies showed what is really going on in the market, we’d have more realistic expectations being set, which would help the industry grow faster based on real business, not hype.
  • israel drori

    dan, great article, facts, facts and facts !!

  • Point is well taken, but also consider that we see improvements every year in delivery, and it is what the public wants. Public demand is what drives the market, unless it is being squelched by big money interests.

  • Jan Paul Dekker

    Some years ago we wrote the same things for mobile phone vs land lines. There is a phenomenal difference in quality and reliability. I think quality is highly overestimated on the consumer market.

  • reidvv

    video clips served by news and info channels, or clips at all, are given suspect bandwidth and preparation for streaming. truly dedicated services such as netflix and hulu deliver quality picture and sound consistently. your piece seems propaganda driven. who is conviva, or is it “coniva”, as in conniving enough to try to fool cable tv subscribers into keeping cable service. did conviva send you this piece? how about showing us the original so we can compare it to your rewrite? are you a reporter or a pr outlet? funny, i’m saying this you, don’t believe everything you read.

  • Jim OBrien

    This is the kind of article that helps shape the industry – real facts. Great work Dan and great candor, Conviva! We all appreciate streaming’s capabilities and it’s important to understand limitations as well. Cable modem IP is a thin stripe of a big broadband pipe, fiber overbuilders like Verizon & AT&T have announced they’re not building any more locations (other than novelty experiments, such as Austin.) Wireless data has no hope for high capacity on scale, especially since its being warehoused by the incumbent telcos (and is largely planned for use on low resolution mobile carrier TV channel services – when there’s already Dyle…) It’s helpful to get a sense of bottlenecks and emphasis the terrific value of streaming, without hype.

  • Dan Snappy

    Facts, facts, facts? This is like saying in 1900 that automobiles will never catch on because the early models were unreliable and slow. How many of these problems were simply the result of the consumer not having a fast enough connection? As speeds and networks improve so will streaming. This article is fallacious, and as such meaningless.

    • danrayburn

      This is the excuse people like you use each year. In 1998, people said “give it a few years”. Said the same thing in 2003, then in 2008, now in 2013. Fifteen years later, same excuse “just wait”. Not everything comes to fruition with time. Simply saying “wait till the future” is not an answer.

  • GooglyPhones

    Is ‘content’ like the electric car, the flying car, or the internal combustion car… in 1900? Remember, not everyone of those things that make logical sense arrive in time… Or in some cases, in our lifetimes, or our children’s lifetimes.

  • Yuriy

    Cable means managed network and CDN is unmanaged one (Internet). That’s the difference!

  • phoneranger

    “cable TV ….some sort of outdated technology that’s going to get “replaced” by streaming media based services”. I don’t even think Barry Diller believes that. He’s only estimating that Aereo will get 30m subscribers max.

    Replaced? No. Crowded? Yes. Remember we still have OTA television despite cable and AM/FM radio despite Pandora, Rdio, Spotify et al. And yes the dudes at were wrong back in the day about bandwidth. But streaming has obviously upset the MSOs. They see something happening. Slowly but surely.

  • webguy

    In the last 5 years video content on the net has exploded, just think for a second of the immense progress that has been made to support this content on essentially what was designed to be a micro text based network.

    Smartphones and mobile devices are portable and already outperform televisions, yet not so long ago they were just for phone calls and text messages, so in many ways cable is behind the times, and limiting if its not available on the go.

    Most of the data presented is being used to misrepresent issues and does not account for the huge technology shift taking place and the social shift too.

    At the foundation level (network layer) of the internet. Everything from hardware to software and even base protocols is heavily in flux and are being redefined to solve these problems.

    Change is inevitable, but it just may be the case that cable will evolve, and the media business with it, just the same way the music business had to.

  • stream2015

    Cable will be replaced by streaming. Why? Because for one the cost difference. I can pay for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and HBO NOW all together at a third of the cost of dish. With these companies there are no hidden fees for canceling and your bill doesn’t randomly go up after a few months or a year. Prices are black and white and you can cancel at anytime. Two, amazing customer service. No harassment or wasted time asking me why I want to cancel. Three, no scrolling through hundreds of channels I can’t watch without paying and channels I would never watch anyway just to get to the channel I do want to watch. four, a lot of the content is free with ads unless you’re a subscriber in which case there are no 15 minutes of commercials completely irrelevant to you. So now you don’t have to spend over an hour to watch a 45 minute show. Five, Direct content. Now with online streaming you can watch your shows wherever and whenever without the wait time of whenever the cable company decides to show it or reshow reruns for missed content. 6, Quality, as a former dish customer, streaming from dish Anywhere took forever to load then it was very choppy once it did. Netflix on the other hand, has seamless streaming watching the same show that you would on Dish Anywhere. These companies will revolutionize the TV industry the way Southwest did the airline industry in the 1970s by providing quality at a lower cost and cutting out the “unnecessary” that people don’t want to pay for anyway.