Conviva hails bright bundled future at expense of publishers

Hidden away at the back of Conviva’s Q3 State of Streaming report is a damning set of figures for the publishing sector. Versus video aggregators in the US, publishers have 65% more video start failures and a 72% higher occurrence of buffering issues, all-in-all equating to 79% more minutes viewed for aggregators over publishers. It’s no wonder there are an abundance of technology vendors on the market profiting from the limitations of publishers – yet Conviva fails to identify any specific technical flaws holding publishers back. Underinvestment in fundamental streaming technologies is the most clear-cut answer.

But is the gap between aggregators and publishers really so surprising? When we consider that many tier 1 telcos are content aggregators, such as T-Mobile US and Reliance Jio in India, it looks unfair to compare their substantial scale and technical resources to that of basic publishers.

In addition, Conviva finds, US aggregators deliver a 16% better picture quality (although it’s unclear how this is measured) and also experience an 11% faster video start time over publishers.

Even Amazon is positioning Channels to cement its position as an aggregator rather than cut price distributor, with the added value lying in the convenience of being able to access the content from one place rather than saving money.

Conviva describes this rise of aggregation as a “bright bundled future” and that is certainly the case from the streaming perspective. Yet we can’t help but fear the new era of content aggregation is evocative of the bulky cable TV packages laden with excessive channels that the industry is moving so rapidly away from.

But being an OTT aggregator aficionado is easier said than done. There is a war waging with content owners pulling back their most treasured assets inside their own OTT services. For example, Amazon Channels does not allow subscribers to view Netflix or ESPN, and the same will almost certainly apply to Disney+, NBCUniversal’s Peacock and HBO Max. The freshly launched Apple TV+ is positioned as an aggregator, although Amazon certainly trumps Apple TV+ for original content, at least for now.

Elsewhere in Conviva’s Q3 State of Streaming report is good news across the board for the industry, in particular for connected TVs – coming out on top in Q3 with 56% share of all viewing hours, compared to a 22% share for mobile and just 13% share for PC. Amazon Fire TV tallied the largest year-over-year growth in viewing, up 78% to edge closer to Roku and claim second place with 20% share of connected TV viewing. Apple TV and Xbox each saw 30% growth and maintained a 9% share of viewing hours for connected TV.

Conviva credits Roku for contributing heavily to the quality improvement gains across the connected TV sector. Roku delivered the lowest rate of video start failures at 0.18% on average, down 52% year on year, as well as boasting the only connected TV device to improve in start time, coming in 13% faster than in last year’s third quarter.

There are a few caveats though. The quality of streamed advertisements remains a critical issue, as Conviva recorded an alarming 39.6% streaming ad failure rate in Q3, which is comprised of ad start failures at 35.7% and exits before ad start at 3.9%. In addition, ads were plagued by delays including long start times and buffering.

But in spite of this high failure rate, connected TVs thrived in terms of ad viewing. In Q3, viewers saw more than twice as many ads on connected TV (46 ads on average per application) than on PC or mobile devices. Mobile exposed viewers to 22 ads per application while PC viewers saw the least at 19. Overall, viewers saw an average of 31 ads per streaming application.

As for picture quality, this improved across the board with the exception of TVs with picture quality 1% worse off than a year earlier.

Another interesting finding saw live and video on demand nearly equal in global quality. VoD outperformed with less failures and better picture quality with 12% less video start failures and 1% better picture quality in Q3. But live bested VoD in buffering and start times, delivering 3% less buffering and 34% faster start times. In addition, live content drove longer viewing sessions, with minutes viewed per play 48% higher than VoD in Q3.