Multiscreen viewing reaches 'all-time high,' but mobile growth is splintering measurement

The number of multiscreen devices used within each household worldwide has reached the highest point yet, averaging two devices, such as a smartphone or tablet, per three-person home. And they're present in 28 percent of households across the globe, according to a new study released by Conviva.

However, the quality of streaming video still varies widely, despite improvement, the company said in its 2015 Viewer Experience Report. And wireless carriers such as AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) play a key role in ensuring quality on mobile devices.

Conviva, a provider of multiscreen delivery services, collected data during 2014, measuring almost 2 trillion events across 50 billion streams, according to Conviva's Simon Jones, VP of marketing, and Keith Zubchevich, chief strategy officer, in an interview with FierceOnlineVideo during NAB 2015.

"Really what we're seeing is a series of shifts in the industry. … The interruptions in the stream have not moved a lot while the picture fidelity has grown," Jones said. In fact, picture fidelity jumped 30 percent worldwide last year, with global bitrates for online video trending higher than 1.74 Mbps on average. The U.S. ranked fifth in the world in bitrate last year.

However, continued buffering issues can have an effect on the amount of time viewers stay engaged with OTT content--depending on the device.

"What we're seeing across the data is that on a mobile device, people understand, 'it's a mobile phone, so it'll be okay. Maybe it stops once in awhile, gets a little grainy once in awhile, but if I can sit here and watch at my son's soccer game… I'm a pretty happy guy,'" Zubchevich said. "… It's the freedom and flexibility mobility offers that people are willing to say, 'Okay, I'll trade some level of quality and still maintain my experience and engagement.' But when you get to the television experience, people don't buy a degraded Internet television (experience). They buy an Internet television, they expect television to be delivered to them."

Those differing expectations have led to some splintering of common measurement categories, particularly for mobile devices. "It's not enough to know expected picture fidelity for Smart Phones--this has to be tuned for Android and iOS," the report noted. "And … each of these categories must then be adjusted for geography. … The quality of their experience is defined by device, geography, platform, network, current Internet load, and more."

Conviva wireless data speeds

Average wireless data speeds by carrier for multiscreen video delivery. (Source: Conviva 2015 Viewer Experience Report)

"People aren't saying, 'Is it on or is it off?' They're saying, 'Is it good?' And good is wildly relative," Jones said. "When thinking about mobile, we actually dug down. What is the difference between Android and iOS? Expectations are very different. Generally speaking the Android pictures tend to be less high resolution. So a publisher may be saying, 'Okay, I don't have to shovel 2.5 Mbps down the pipe to Android, but I probably do to iOS.'"

Wireless carriers such as AT&T, Sprint (NYSE: S), T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) and Verizon are a "critical link" to delivering a good viewing experience, the report noted; "their delivery capabilities, however, are significantly different," it stated.

In the U.S., AT&T leads average wireless data speeds at 1.40 Mbps, the report said, followed by Verizon at 1.35 Mbps. But both carriers trail the global leader in speed, France's Orange, which tops the list at 6.3 Mbps.

Jones said that when measuring the viewer experience by metro area in the U.S., they were surprised at the results. "When we went and looked at which major metros have the highest picture resolution, we discovered it wasn't the ones that we expected," he said. "Not because the infrastructure isn't in place, in New York or San Francisco or whatever, but because it's so busy. So many people are using it that the effective availability is different."

Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, Providence and Detroit ranked as the top five major metro areas for picture fidelity, the report said, while Honolulu, Boise, Irvine, Calif., Jackson, Miss., and Albuquerque ranked at the bottom.

That's something OTT content publishers and distributors need to optimize for, Jones said. "It's not wildly hyperbolic to say if you want to get every customer happy, you need to know the device they're on, the network they're on, the location they're in, and--I think this is important--how busy is the Internet? Because the reality is it's a shared resource."

For more:
- see the release

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