Not too long ago, Cablevision’s CEO said he foresees a day when they would stop offering cable service and make broadband their primary offering. Additionally, a study by research firm GFKfound the percentage of people age 13 to 33 subscribing to pay-TV fell to 76% this last June from 85% in June 2010. With major buzz on the increase in cord-cutters, I’ve pondered how many consumers missed out on water cooler chatter around the RedWedding episode of Game of Thrones, the finale of Breaking Bad or any episode of Homeland, because they cut the cord. Luckily, I still pay for Time Warner Cable, and I love having my HBO GO.

In the ‘old days’ you certainly needed pay-TV to keep up at the water cooler. But now that over-the-top services are increasingly differentiating their offering with new content deals (Amazon with CBSand Netflix with Fox), original series like Amazon‘s new comedies and Netflix’s Emmy nominatedHouse of Cards and Orange is the New Black, the landscape has shifted where great content is ubiquitous. Incredibly, Netflix plans to spend $2 Billion next year on TV production, essentially building a major new studio in the industry.

With strong content becoming more commonplace, both TV Everywhere and OTT providers need to differentiate their business in other ways. One issue they need to address is quality. Anyone delivering video over the open, unmanaged Internet is faced with the challenge of controlling streaming quality. Viewers expect to watch their beloved shows without buffering and in the same HD quality they have on the big-screen. Dan Rayburn says that the quality and reliability of online video isn’t close to what cable TV delivers, and he believes it’s the major reason online services won’t replace cable anytime soon. It’s true. Quality is a major issue. Our data highlights that for brands not using Conviva Precision, 60% of their streams experience some type of quality degradation including buffering, slow video startup or grainy or low resolution.

Online video providers’ principal challenge is that they have zippo control over distribution, other than making sure they have enough bandwidth at their end. Between their server and the viewer, the channel is out of their power. CDNs are trying to push very large video files through a small pipe. That causes congestion, resulting in buffering. To get a file through the pipe when there isn’t enough bandwidth they can reduce the bitrate using adaptive bitrate technology, but this results in a low quality fuzzy picture – not ideal.

So how is HBO GO differentiating and delivering HD-quality video on their award winning “best-in-class” app? They’re using Conviva’s Precision, with a multi-CDN approach and a preemptive, adaptive solution that switches CDN stream source and delivers the highest possible bitrate in tandem, based on Conviva’s real-time global intelligence. Our vantage point, based on the 4 billion streams we monitor monthly, enables us to find the best route for delivering the highest quality video available for each individual screen. Conviva gives brands control to deliver video over an unmanaged network.

No one else in the Industry is doing this. Less advanced technologies use load-balancing, which essentially routes pre-determined amounts of traffic to different CDNs based on preconfigured logic, not looking for the best route with quality in mind. This solution lacks dynamic awareness and capabilities to make modifications based on subtle changes in the health of the Internet. Additionally, it only makes those decisions at the beginning of the stream, so if the pipe gets clogged mid-stream, you’re out of luck. It’s buffer city.

Our method ensures less buffering and higher definition video, and data shows that on average, a 1% increase in buffering led to 8 minutes lost in viewing time in 2012. Translation: high quality video equals longer view times. In fact, when Oxygen launched with Conviva’s Precision, they secured a 36.5% increase in unique video streams with an 87.96% increase in unique retention.

Differentiating your video site is key in a marketplace where competitors are increasingly offering more captivating content. Providers with quality video delivery will be successful in the fight to keep their viewers.

Diana Paschal
Digital Marketing Team