Report

Conviva’s State of Streaming Q1 2020

April 29, 2020

With so much uncertainty in the world today, streaming provides a moment of escape, a modicum of normalcy in what are definitely not normal times. As the worldwide coronavirus pandemic unfolded in Q1, people around the world were homebound, workplaces and schools closed, sports seasons postponed, and viewers turned to streaming en masse. In this report, we will study the state of streaming throughout Q1, including during the rapid transition in viewer behavior throughout March.

Highlights include:

  • Streaming viewership continued to skyrocket, with time spent up by 57% year over year. On-demand content drove the lion’s share of this growth, surging up 79% and capturing 72% share of viewing time in Q1.
  • Global economic volatility and brand sensitivities regarding juxtoposition of advertising around tragic news content in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic spurred a decline in advertising demand. The lack of ads in tandem with increased quality errors drove up the rate of missed ad opprotunities, up 26.9% in Q1 as compared to Q4, due to ads that were not filled or did not play as intended.
  • Despite sports around the globe going on hiatus spurring a downturn in social content production, sports organizations drove large increases in social engagement in Q1.
  • Some unlikely smaller media market suspects, including the Milwaukee Bucks, Cincinnati Reds, Winnipeg Jets, and Orlando City Soccer Club, joined the ratings juggernaut Dallas Cowboys as league-leaders in engagement on TikTok.
  • After many quarters of impressive growth for U.S. aggregators, Q1 resulted in a reversal in the market as U.S. publishers flourished, up 163% as compared to the 27% year-over-year growth in viewing for aggregators.
  • March 15th proved a turning point in the acceleration of streaming, as stay-at-home orders rolled out in countries and regions around the world.
  • Global content quality improved with 27% less time buffering, 25% higher picture quality, and 14% fewer video start failures year over year, while start times remained static.
  • Bucking a multi-quarter trend towards connected TV dominating viewing growth, mobile netted the largest increase among devices in Q1, up 60% year over year overall with a massive 84% increase in on-demand viewing.
  • Roku, the market share leader in connected TV devices, was also the only device to net improvements across the board in quality, with video start failures plunging 49%, 37% higher picture quality, buffering improved 33%, and 15% faster video start times. Unsurprisingly, Roku also boosted viewing hours by 55% year over year for a slight increase in share with 44% of global connected TV viewing time.
  • While connected TV viewing is the most common device of choice to stream globally and in the Americas, capturing 54% and 62% respectively of all viewing time, PC viewing dominated in Asia and Africa with 51% and 54% respectively while mobile edged out the other devices in Europe with 32% of viewing.

 

Heights of Viewing

2020 has been prophesied as the year of streaming. But no one could have guessed the rapid acceleration that took place in Q1 and just how central streaming would become in many households as the coronavirus pandemic rendered the world homebound. Video on demand flourished in Q1, while live video faltered as sports were suspended. The days of “Must See TV” were increasingly a thing of the past, as viewers tuned in on their own terms rather than adhering to the institution of prime time.

Demanding Content Anytime, Any Device

Q1 experienced large increases in overall viewing, up 57% year over year, building on multiple quarters of significant growth. On demand content carried the lion’s share of growth, up 79% and capturing 72% share of viewing time in Q1, up from 63% share in Q1 2019. Live programming grew more modestly, up just 19% overall and lost market share to 28% from 37% the previous Q1. Typically, the largest viewership peaks each quarter are driven by live events, and Q1 was no exception. The largest Q1 spike in 2020 occurred on February 2nd EST/February 3rd UTC with the Kansas City Chiefs’ victory in Super Bowl LIV. Viewership more than doubled, up 141% as compared to 2018’s highest peak driven by Super Bowl LII when the Philadelphia Eagles stunned the New England Patriots. This was also 75% higher than the peak in 2019 when the Super Bowl was edged out by another football matchup as Clemson throttled Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship. After multiple quarters of connected TV leading the pack, mobile netted the largest viewing growth among devices in Q1, up 60% year over year overall with a whopping 84% increase in on-demand viewing and the largest live increase, up 16%. TV enjoyed 51% increase in time spent viewing overall, 74% increase in on demand, and 14% in live. Meanwhile, PC continued to lag, with 22% overall growth in time spent, 29% on demand and 12% live. As viewers stayed home in March, consumption habits shifted rapidly. In the span of a single month, comparing February 2020 to March 2020, overall time spent streaming grew a stunning 20% with on demand viewing up 28%. Not surprisingly, connected TVs dominated growth, up 21% overall with 26% increase in on demand. TVs were also the only device to experience an increase in live viewing month over month, up 10%, while mobile and PC each dropped, 7% and 10% respectively.

a turning point in streaming for the padnemic covid The Ides of March

The change in streaming behavior can be markedly observed on March 15, as additional countries and regions around the world began instituting stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the span of a month, streaming surged more than 20%.

Share of device in global viewing hours q1 2020

Devices Around the World

Connected TV was the most common device to stream globally as well as in the Americas, capturing 54% and 62% share respectively of all viewing time, followed by Europe (24%), Africa (13%), and Asia (1%). PC viewing dominated in Asia and Africa with 51% and 54% respectively, while it accounted for 18% in Europe and just 6% in the Americas. Mobile edged out the other devices in Europe with 32% of viewing. Across other regions, mobile accounted for 43% of viewing in Asia, 27% in Africa, and 21% in the Americas. Streaming grew fastest in Europe, up 70% overall. The region’s growth was bolstered by connected TV which nearly doubled, up 99%, followed by mobile, up 58%, and PC, up 19%. The Americas also tallied impressive growth for a more mature streaming region, up 57% overall and surprisingly led by mobile, up 67%, followed by TV, up 48%, and PC, up 18%. Asia, up 30% overall, experienced the most growth in viewing on TV, up 159%, growing quickly year over year but still only commanding a small share of total viewing. Meanwhile mobile and PC, which were more substantial in market share, delivered 27% and 28% growth respectively. At only 11.6 minutes per play on average, Asia still drew viewers, but not for the extended periods of time that the Americas and Europe did with 20.1 and 21.3 minutes per play respectively. Africa enjoyed a 25% uptick, led by PC, up 35%, and mobile, up 23%, while also being the only region to report a decline as TV dropped 13% year over year.

 

q1 2020 streaming qoe benchmarks Experience Matters

Bitrate continued to improve significantly in Q1, despite industry calls for reductions in quality in infrastructure strained countries taxed by extensive usage. Publishers know the quality of their stream has never been more important to viewers, and they have delivered improvements, with a concerted focus to mitigate buffering, enhance picture quality, shorten start times, and reduce failures.

Global Goals

Overall streaming content quality improved with 27% less time spent waiting for buffering, 25% higher picture quality, and 14% fewer video start failures year over year, while video start times remained static. By device type, mobile reported the most progress with 38% less buffering, 27% higher picture quality, 13% fewer start failures, and 3% faster start time. TV experienced more modest improvements in buffering, down 7%, picture quality, up 22%, and video start time decreased 4%, while seeing a slight bump in video start failures, up 1%. PC lagged in quality, with moderate declines year over year in Q1 in all categories except for buffering which was improved 18%

Roku Reigns

Roku, the market share leader in connected TV devices, was also the only device to net improvements across the board in quality, with video start failures down 49%, 37% higher picture quality, buffering improved 33%, and 15% faster video start times. Roku has been rewarded with 55% more viewing hours year over year for a slight increase in share with 44% of global connected TV viewing time. The connected TV market runner-up, Fire TV also increased at 55% year over year and slightly in share, capturing 19% of connected TV viewing. Fire TV did not deliver such sweeping improvements as Roku but was relatively stable with video start failures down 7% and a 1% higher picture quality while buffering and video start time worsened slightly, up 4% and 2% respectively. Xbox continued to take strides forward in streaming, with 47% growth year over year and 10% share of connected TV viewing in Q1. Boasting the lowest buffering for multiple quarters, Xbox improves in this important metric, down 7% for the lowest buffering rate of any device at just 0.13%. Apple TV also put up an impressive showing for quality in Q1, with 25% growth year over year and 8% of the connected TV viewing. The device continued a multi-quarter trend of setting the standard in both picture quality, improving 15% to 8.14 Mbps, and video start time even with a 22% year-over-year increase, at just 2.76 seconds.

The Demand Problem

A decline in advertising demand in Q1 was the result of economic volatility combined with sensitivities around hard-hitting news. The normalcy of advertising created before this time can feel tone-deaf when juxtaposed with current content. As eyeballs transitioned from content like sports to news, advertisers did not. The lack of ads combined with persisting quality errors increased the rate of missed ad opportunities, up 26.9% in Q1 as compared to Q4, due to ads that aren’t filled or don’t play as intended. For this 46.3% of missed ad opportunities, the most common issue was the lack of ad demand leading to wrapper and VAST errors as publishers tried to fill ad slots but came up empty. While viewers may think this is cause for celebration, ultimately these errors negatively impact the experience as viewers often face a delay in waiting for multiple requests that ultimately go unfilled. It’s also a challenge for the industry when publishers capture more viewers watching more content than ever but can’t capitalize on those increases.

streaming ad quality metrics q1 2020

Ad Quality

As it does with content, poor quality can plague ads and disrupt the viewer’s experience or cause them to tune out. In Q1, average ad start time was 2.21 seconds, down 3.5% from Q4. Long ad start times result in more consumers growing impatient and leaving. Previous research from Conviva has illustrated how just 5 seconds of waiting for an ad to play resulted in 13.6% of the audience abandoning the stream. In Q1, for ads with a 5 second delay, 19.24% of the audience abandoned the content. This increase illustrates how viewer impatience for ad delays continues to rise. Conversely, as start times decline, less viewers abandon the content as in Q1 with exits before the ad started down 5.6%. Ad buffering also moderately improved, down 3.5% in Q1 from the previous quarter. Ad picture quality did decline in Q1, down 15% from the previous quarter.

Publishers Take up the Race

After many quarters of impressive growth for U.S. aggregators, Q1 resulted in a reversal in the market as U.S. publishers flourished, up 163% in viewing year over year. This was compared to 27% growth for aggregators over the same time period. The growth for aggregators was impacted by the closure of PlayStation Vue at the end of January, while the publisher category was bolstered by the launch of new services like Disney+. In terms of quality, aggregators delivered around 60% less buffering and video start failures as well as a moderately shorter start time in Q1, while publishers offered 30% higher picture quality on average.

Sports Goes Social

The games may not go on, but the sports leagues, teams, and players engaged with their social fans more than ever. Q1 2020 witnessed the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the sports industry as leagues around the world suspended their seasons, unsure of when sports, let alone spectators, could return. With sports on hiatus, the in-person experience may have been curtailed, but sports leagues, teams, and players are still engaging their fans in innovative ways through social media.

Change in sports content and engagement 2020

Engaging with Fans off the Field

Sports games typically drive significant social content creation. The sports hiatus had an immediate impact on overall post volume for sports teams as cross-platform posts dropped significantly in Q1 across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram as compared to Q1 the prior year. The only exception was the NFL, well into the offseason during the March sports shutdown, which saw posts increase by 3% and videos increase by 39%. In contrast, weeks before Opening Day the MLB season was delayed indefinitely and subsequently saw the biggest decrease in content as their teams delivered 30% less posts and 34% less videos in Q1. The NBA and MLS saw nearly identical decreases in posts and videos down 13% and 14% respectively as both leagues saw mid-season stoppages. Premiere League posts ebbed a mere 3%, while increasing modestly in videos, up 13%. Quality ruled over quantity as sports posts volume dipped, but sports engagement has skyrocketed. Premier League scored the greatest increase in engagements per post and engagements per video up 146% and 142% respectively, followed by the NBA with 119% and 126% increases respectively. The NFL ran for a more modest growth with a 37% increase in engagements per video and 9% increase in engagements per post. Notably, when totaling all engagements across all platforms for major sports leagues, Premier League ruled with more cross-platform engagements in Q1 2020 than NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, and MLS combined. In total they command 54% of the total share of engagements. NBA is the only league in the ballpark with 27% share, followed by NFL at 9%, NHL at 6%, MLB at 3%, and MLS at 1% share of engagements among major sports leagues.

best teams on social media nba nfl mlb nhl mlsl facebook instaram twitter youtube tiktok

Looking at the scoreboard for which teams outperformed the field in engagements per video, within the Premier League, Liverpool FC reigned as champion across all social platforms and nearly undefeated, but for Manchester United on Facebook. In the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers clinched the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter titles. The Pittsburgh Penguins conquered those same platforms for the NHL. The other leagues saw more disparity across the different platforms, with small media market Kansas City Chiefs and larger media market New York Yankees each earning a top spot on two of the five—a feat the LA Galaxy also netted in MLS. With the exception of Liverpool FC which dominated nearly every social platform for Premier League and the well established Dallas Cowboys in the NFL, the most engaging teams on TikTok are smaller media market underdogs. By likes per video, the Milwaukee Bucks, Cincinnati Reds, Winnipeg Jets, and Orlando City Soccer Club are all surprises when looking at the comparison to teams leading their leagues on other platforms.

 

Share of social sports audience nba nfl nhl mlb mls premier league

Surging Social Audience

It’s no surprise to see that sports leagues’ presences are growing on social. The majority of fans follow along on Facebook where 50% of the total followers across Premier League, NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and MLS will connect. Instagram is the next most popular, capturing 26% of the total sports followers, with Twitter not far behind at 22%. YouTube lags significantly in audience with just 2%. Premier League earned the greatest audience growth of any professional sports league measured with 29% growth in their total cross-platform audience, followed by NBA at 17%, MLS at 9%, NFL at 7%, NHL at 6% and MLB at 5%. The platforms that most drove audiences is a clear validation of where leagues have invested over the past year. The largest audience increases occurred on YouTube and Instagram. YouTube led with multiple triple-digit increases as the NFL increased their YouTube following by 132%, followed by Premier League at 102%, MLB at 90%, NBA at 80%, NHL at 23%, and MLS at 17%. Instagram also netted notable increases with the NBA at 29% followed by the Premier League with 26% growth, NHL at 24%, MLS at 24%, NFL at 23%, and MLB at 21%. While audience growth on YouTube totaled the largest increases for most of the leagues, there is room to run as the platform still represents a very small portion of a sports team’s total audience. Meanwhile, the faster growing Instagram platform bested Twitter for share of audience across the leagues. Facebook’s relative stability for sports leagues can be attributed to teams’ long-standing presence on the platform, with many racking up their significant fanbase early on. TikTok accounts were nearly nonexistent a year ago and have therefore not been included in the comparison.

Share of social News Engagements and audience social news increase 2020 vs 2019

Social Source of News

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of social news to levels never before seen. New edicts come daily, and the public’s need to be informed has never been higher. As attention shifts away from live events and sports, engaging with news has become even more of a focal point in people’s lives.

New Day, New News

Whereas sports leagues’ social posting generally fell, news-based social posting climbed with the spread of COVID-19. Post volume jumped most on Facebook, up 186%, Instagram a distant second with a 60% increase, and Twitter, with a 44% increase, for news accounts in Q1 as compared to the previous year. The number of videos posted was up even more dramatically with YouTube up 267%, Twitter up 148%, Instagram up 140%, and Facebook up 64%.

Engrossed by Social News

Engaging content and in greater frequencies led views per video and total video views to soar on YouTube, which was increased 328% and 1155% respectively in Q1 2020 as compared to the previous Q1. YouTube also received the largest increase in engagements per video, up 359%. While YouTube represented just 13% of total audience for social news accounts, its growth compared to the previous year represents a significant change in content consumption habits. More viewers are turning to YouTube for more of their news in the wake of the pandemic. Facebook, which rules over the news audience with 45% share, also demonstrated impressive gains, increased by 107% in views per video, 160% in total video views, and 46% in engagements per video. Facebook is also the primary platform for news when looking at total engagements. Facebook garnered the largest share of total engagements with 52%, followed by Instagram at 30%, Twitter at 11%, and YouTube at 7%. While total engagements can also be reflective of content output, and Facebook and Instagram have both benefitted from increased output in 2020. As a result, Facebook’s lead is even more commanding.

 

Concluding Thoughts

Entering into Q2, the industry has never had a better opportunity to engage viewers, whether introducing them to new streaming services, encouraging a deep dive into the catalog, or building loyalty. There will also be incredible challenges for the industry. Advertising will continue to be dampened by the evolving situation, but we expect it will return with fervor in 2021 and beyond. The large increases in viewing have resulted in never before seen scale, which presents additional complexities in ensuring an excellent experience. Consumer demand for sports will not wane, but the landscape of offerings will likely evolve with the current drought of content. As price sensitivity plays a bigger role, the streaming providers best positioned in the current climate will likely be those with hybrid models that include a lower cost option. Streaming has proven to be essential, securing a place in viewers’ homes during this difficult time, but the streaming wars are nowhere near over and the winners yet to be decided.

 

Methodology

Data for Conviva’s State of Streaming report was primarily collected from Conviva’s proprietary sensor technology currently embedded in three billion streaming video applications, measuring in excess of 500 million unique viewers watching 150 billion streams per year with 1.5 trillion real-time transactions per day across more than 180 countries. Year-over-year comparisons were normalized at the customer level for accurate representations of industry growth. The advertising data included in the report is based on an analysis of 12.5 billion ad attempts in Q1. This social media data included in this report is based on an analysis of over 15 million posts, 1.7 million videos, and over 2.9 billion engagements across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

Whereas sports leagues’ social posting generally fell, news-based social posting climbed with the spread of COVID-19. Post volume jumped most on Facebook, up 186%, Instagram a distant second with a 60% increase, and Twitter, with a 44% increase, for news accounts in Q1 as compared to the previous year. The number of videos posted was up even more dramatically with YouTube up 267%, Twitter up 148%, Instagram up 140%, and Facebook up 64%.

 

Engrossed by Social News

Engaging content and in greater frequencies led views per video and total video views to soar on YouTube, which was increased 328% and 1155% respectively in Q1 2020 as compared to the previous Q1. YouTube also received the largest increase in engagements per video, up 359%. While YouTube represented just 13% of total audience for social news accounts, its growth compared to the previous year represents a significant change in content consumption habits. More viewers are turning to YouTube for more of their news in the wake of the pandemic. Facebook, which rules over the news audience with 45% share, also demonstrated impressive gains, increased by 107% in views per video, 160% in total video views, and 46% in engagements per video. Facebook is also the primary platform for news when looking at total engagements. Facebook garnered the largest share of total engagements with 52%, followed by Instagram at 30%, Twitter at 11%, and YouTube at 7%. While total engagements can also be reflective of content output, and Facebook and Instagram have both benefitted from increased output in 2020. As a result, Facebook’s lead is even more commanding.

 

Concluding Thoughts

Entering into Q2, the industry has never had a better opportunity to engage viewers, whether introducing them to new streaming services, encouraging a deep dive into the catalog, or building loyalty. There will also be incredible challenges for the industry. Advertising will continue to be dampened by the evolving situation, but we expect it will return with fervor in 2021 and beyond. The large increases in viewing have resulted in never before seen scale, which presents additional complexities in ensuring an excellent experience. Consumer demand for sports will not wane, but the landscape of offerings will likely evolve with the current drought of content. As price sensitivity plays a bigger role, the streaming providers best positioned in the current climate will likely be those with hybrid models that include a lower cost option. Streaming has proven to be essential, securing a place in viewers’ homes during this difficult time, but the streaming wars are nowhere near over and the winners yet to be decided.

 

Methodology

Data for Conviva’s State of Streaming report was primarily collected from Conviva’s proprietary sensor technology currently embedded in three billion streaming video applications, measuring in excess of 500 million unique viewers watching 150 billion streams per year with 1.5 trillion real-time transactions per day across more than 180 countries. Year-over-year comparisons were normalized at the customer level for accurate representations of industry growth. The advertising data included in the report is based on an analysis of 12.5 billion ad attempts in Q1. This social media data included in this report is based on an analysis of over 15 million posts, 1.7 million videos, and over 2.9 billion engagements across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.