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Live video streaming is booming … it’s time we understood how users truly experience it

There’s no doubt video streaming has been ruling the mobile content scene for some time now. But among the overwhelming statistics on the dramatic rise of video, one area in particular recorded rapid growth over the past years: watching events live on video. Unsurprisingly, live streaming gained powerful traction during the pandemic, when practically all aspects of daily life moved online. While worldwide lockdowns may have amplified the trend, it’s far from the only reason viewers increasingly prefer to watch content in real-time. 

Why live?

Some events need to be seen live. Think of a World Cup final, breaking news, a concert or gaming streams. These are all events that lose their purpose if you watch them pre-recorded.

Another important feature where live streamed videos trump pre-recorded ones is engagement. According to a report by Vimeo, live content holds viewers’ attention 10 - 20x longer than pre-recorded videos. For content creators looking to interact and engage with their audience in real-time, live video is the ideal channel. From product demos to event launches, the influencer marketing scene has embraced live video streaming to the fullest, drawing millions to their screens, upping audience engagement to new levels. 

The engagement and entertainment value of live streaming is also the driving force behind the next e-commerce revolution. Fusing interactive videos with online shopping, live commerce is projected to reach $57 billion by 2025 in the US alone

The list doesn't end there: there are a growing number of users watching online courses and workout videos, or joining virtual conferences all via live streaming. 

Measuring the choppy stream

When live streaming works, it works really well. But live viewing can easily become a frustrating experience. Think of the penalty shot you miss because of a bad connection, the frozen screen during your online course presentation, or the Super Bowl halftime show left hanging mid-lyrics. Frankly, the experience is ruined. 

We may have an idea about what a good or bad live video experience feels like. But, until now, there wasn’t an objective way to quantify it.

Here at Opensignal, we have pioneered a range of metrics in the past years - including games experience, group video calling experience, and voice app experience and we decided the time was right to take a deeper look at the real-time live video experience users get on their mobile devices.

By being able to measure it, we are able to provide a benchmark for decision-makers looking to understand it, and ultimately work towards improving that experience. 

Our Live Video Experience score is made up of a range of measures that impact users’ perceived viewing experience, including: 

  • Initial delay: how long it takes for a video to start playing

  • Number of stalling events: how many times the viewing is interrupted 

  • Total stalling time: the amount of time video is not playing 

  • Time spent on each video resolution as the video stream adapts to network conditions

  • Average bitrate at each resolution: used as an indicator of the amount of data transmitted 

  • Down switching and negative quality changes: how much video quality drops in response to network conditions.

  • Live offset: the time difference between real-time and the current playback position a viewer sees. Picture the following: you’re watching a live match on your mobile in the garden and suddenly hear a loud cheer from your neighbor from the other side of the fence. A few seconds later the goal shows up on your screen too… that delay is live offset. 

Combining all these factors into a single MOS (Mean Opinion Score), we are able to analyze and compare the true experience viewers are getting when streaming live video content.

Interested to see where your country ranks in live video experience? Check out our inaugural report analyzing 100+ markets around the world!