As the demand for video entertainment platforms has skyrocketed in recent years, so has the need for reliable, high-definition content delivery. Quality of Experience (QoE) has become a crucial factor in understanding video quality during delivery and ensuring seamless streaming experiences for viewers.
In this article, we’ll discuss how exactly QoE affects video streaming and the viewer experience. Stick around to learn about factors that influence QoE, along with techniques for measuring and improving it to make your streaming service stand out.
QoE is a set of metrics that measure how well a service, product, or system meets viewer expectations. In video streaming, QoE takes both the technical and subjective experience of viewers into account when analyzing video streaming quality and determining viewer satisfaction.
While QoE may seem similar to Quality of Service (QoS), the two are distinct. In video streaming, QoS usually refers to a network’s ability to deliver video segments quickly and reliably. QoS uses a set of metrics to measure technical performance, including latency, throughput, bandwidth, and availability, whereas QoE uses these metrics alongside measures of viewer perceptions and expectations. In short, QoS metrics measure the performance of a service directly, whereas QoE metrics measure the overall performance of a service from the viewer's perspective.
In an increasingly saturated market, video streaming services need to set themselves apart from both a content and quality standpoint. Whether viewers are watching short, 10-second videos or massive online streaming events, they can quickly become frustrated when the video stream doesn’t meet their high standards in reliability, quality, playback speed, or ease of use. Every viewer perceives these quality factors differently, making it even more imperative for services to investigate the streaming backgrounds, preferences, and expectations of their viewers.
Poor QoE can quickly drive your customers to other streaming service options, which is why it's so critical to consistently measure and monitor QoE metrics. Having this information on hand allows you to identify viewer pain points and debug issues efficiently and helps you both retain viewers and attract them through positive reviews and recommendations.
QoE is affected by video factors, such as bitrate and resolution, and environmental factors, such as device stability and network connection. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most important factors to look at when evaluating your QoE.
Bandwidth measures the amount of data a device can transmit over an internet connection within a specific period of time. High bandwidth facilitates an efficient, smooth streaming experience, whereas low bandwidth can lead to streaming latencies — especially if multiple devices are competing for bandwidth on the same network.
A fast and reliable internet connection is necessary to stream quality content without buffering or interruptions. Though wired connections are the better choice for video streaming, Wi-Fi is more common and can be affected by factors like obstruction, distance, and other devices. These hiccups can cause unintended interruptions that tank the viewer experience.
Video encoding is the process of preparing video files to fit the formats and conditions required for playback on a device. While video encoding makes content compatible with different devices, networks, and platforms, it can worsen video quality when it is not properly configured.
Device performance is another factor that affects the quality of a video stream. For example, devices that have limited processing power may not be able to accommodate high-definition content, which can ultimately result in buffering issues.
Your viewers should be able to watch videos on their laptops or mobile phones and enjoy the same video quality. However, if your service isn't equipped to adapt video content to different screen sizes, your QoE will take a hit. The right video encoding techniques automatically adjust video resolution and aspect ratio to fit source content to different screen sizes and display capacities, boosting QoE
For programmers, latency usually refers to the delay between the viewer’s request and the system’s response. In video streaming, latency represents the lag between a video stream and a live event — and the higher the latency, the slower the real-time playback. Every part of the video content delivery process takes time, and any stall in the chain can cause latencies that lower video QoE.
One of the leading causes of viewer dissatisfaction in video streaming is buffering, which is usually the product of poor bandwidth, network connection, and device capability. Buffering takes many forms, including unexpected long pauses, stuttering playback, or frozen video and audio. Frequent buffering during video sessions makes viewer frustration and drop-off much more likely.
Now that you have an understanding of the factors that influence QoE, you need proven ways to track technical performance to see how it affects viewership. Below are some metrics for measuring and evaluating your QoE.
Playback failures track how many times a viewer attempts to start a video before the service plays a segment. When viewer playback fails, viewers may repeatedly press the play button only to be met with a blank screen.
This metric tracks how many times a service terminates a playback request due to errors after the initial buffering. In this case, viewers may experience premature video termination, browser crashes, or stalled players.
Buffering occurs when the player hasn’t downloaded enough video segments before the viewer is ready to play them. When there aren’t enough segments to play, the player has to stop and wait for the segments to download. This metrics tracks how many times viewers experience prolonged loading, stalled or stuttered playback, or frozen audio and video — and for how long.
Measuring bitrates helps gauge overall video quality using the number of bits transmitted over a set period of time. Streams that use lower bitrates typically result in poor video resolution that leaves viewers dissatisfied.
Startup time metrics measure how long it takes the video to start playing from the time of the viewer’s request for playback. If viewers need to wait a long time for their video to start, they may exit prematurely.
By optimizing your content delivery using reliable QoE data from a dedicated video analytics tool like Mux Data, you can optimize your viewer experience. Your main goal is to understand viewer engagement on the deepest level — what inspires it, hinders it, and builds it. As such, it’s important to choose tools and software that monitor performance with real-time data and determine which devices, players, browsers, and videos create the most problems for your viewers.
Mux makes it easy to track, analyze, and monitor your video QoE so you can focus more time on building a loyal customer base. Our Monitoring Dashboard provides you with essential metrics like playback failures and success scores, buffering percentages, video quality scores, average bitrates, and video startup times. Plus, you can use the dashboard to dig into your data, aided by smart, viewer-friendly visualizations that target individual issues and overarching trends so you can get the full picture quickly.
Metrics are only part of the equation, though — so how do you actually improve the viewer experience? We’ve gathered what we think are the most effective strategies you can use to optimize your video QoE.
Though many modern adaptive bitrate streaming (ABR) players are resilient to changes in bandwidth, video encoders must also ensure high-definition content at efficient bitrates for optimal QoE. To achieve the best picture, providers should encode at high bandwidths, use variable bitrate encoding, and optimize encoding settings for each device. These techniques reserve higher bitrates for more dynamic, demanding content.
Network connection speed is crucial for ensuring the best quality in video streaming. You can improve network conditions by serving video using a reliable content delivery network (CDN). Additionally, consider where your viewers are located. If your CDN doesn’t have Points of Presence in their country, video data may have to travel further to reach their devices.
Because latencies and buffering stalls are often pain points for viewers, try to identify why they happen and eliminate them in your delivery process — especially in processing stages that temporarily store data. ABR can reduce buffering times by automatically adjusting a video’s resolution and bitrate for viewers with lower bandwidth.
Customizing the viewing experience for each device and screen size is another effective way to maximize video QoE. This approach usually involves choosing a resolution that balances performance and quality for each device and connection. To further enhance this type of optimization, it’s important to take into account the aspect ratio and orientation of your target devices and platforms.
Maintaining high video QoE will ultimately help your streaming service stand out from the crowd. Today’s viewers expect the highest-quality picture, sound, and experience — which means that a poor QoE can quickly drive viewers away. By establishing a consistent, positive QoE, you’ll attract viewers and create a loyal, long-lasting customer base in one fell swoop.
Mux gives you automated, actionable insights that can help you pinpoint QoE issues in real time so you can effectively debug them before playback. With our Monitoring Dashboard, you can utilize metrics like playback errors, bitrates, and startup times to detect problems before they’re problems and give your viewers an exceptional experience and to make a game plan for maintaining QoE over time.
Ready to optimize your viewer experience with Mux? Request a demo today!