Only true QoE tells video providers the viewer experience they deliver

By December 14, 2021

In today’s highly competitive video world, Quality of Service measurements take many forms, but ultimately only one metric matters: how viewers experience the video quality at the end of the distribution chain.

As hundreds of video services vie for an audience, service providers are coming to grips with this reality: each one of the functionalities under the Quality of Service (QoS) umbrella helps to paint a picture of the video delivered, but none of them – individually or together – can accurately identify the viewer’s Quality of Experience (QoE).

QoS ≠ QoE

QoS and QoE may appear to be similar, but there’s no denying the differences in form and function. QoS uses data such as file-based checks, bitrate, player metrics, packet loss, profile switching, and more to show how the network as a whole is performing; QoE is a metric that describes what the viewer actually is seeing. Why is this difference important? In many cases, you can have a video with a perfect QoS score - without buffering or profile switching, etc. and delivered with high bitrate but with an extremely bad perceptual quality.

Borrowing from International Telecommunications Union standards, streaming technology expert Jan Ozer describes QoS as the “totality of characteristics of a telecommunications service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated and implied needs of the user of the service” and QoE as “the overall acceptability of an application or service, as perceived subjectively by the end-user.” You can think of QoS as something that can directly or indirectly impact QoE, but QoS does not give the full picture. Playback interruptions, for example, do impact the viewing experience but you need to know how to interpret them. Getting a report that there were 10 occurrences of profile switching during a one hour program does not tell you what the impact on the viewer was. 

QoE = content presentation quality

QoS = Performance of signals and systems that enable digital 

communications

An analogy from an entirely different type of delivery nathan-dumlao-iOnOR4KMttc-unsplashecosystem explains the difference: QoS would tell you whether an Amazon package has or has not arrived, whether it is delivered on time and what issues it might have run into along the way, but not the condition of the contents. A true QoE metric would tell you all of these stats, as well as if the contents match what the shipper intended to send and what the recipient expected. Efficiency without customer satisfaction is like Amazon delivering you the wrong package in record time.

In the QoS world, OTT providers can tick the boxes of color gamut, resolution, luminance and more, and still wind up with an unsatisfactory end product if the video itself is faulty. Visual checks – along with QoS data – are needed to ensure that what the viewer expects and what the viewer sees are identical, but until recently these visual checks did not scale across global markets of millions of viewers.

Here’s why this is important right now: 

  • The enormous growth of streaming and the availability of vast libraries of content are transforming the habits of viewers. 

  • With advancements in networking and streaming technologies QoS issues are becoming less pronounced. As a result, content providers are moving to deliver higher resolution, higher dynamic range, and higher frame rate videos, all of which should be measured to ensure viewers’ QoE.

  • The rise of more sophisticated video quality technologies is simply creating a more demanding and more discriminating audience.

Rather than endure subpar experiences, viewers are becoming more inclined to disconnect quickly and seek higher-quality alternatives. Research conducted by Akamai shows that poor experiences can result in a 16 percent increase in negative emotions and a decrease of nearly 20 percent in engagement; more ominously, only 25% of study participants said they would view an inferior content experience for more than four minutes.

To build viewer satisfaction, long-term loyalty, and sustained revenue, providers need visibility into actual viewer experiences – in real-time and at scale using automated approaches that mimic the human visual system. The need has spawned a new category – Video Experience Automation – with the goal of providing streaming providers with the precision tools they need to ensure cost effective delivery of video with superior QoE.

Learn more about Video Experience Automation and how it can help you improve your workflow efficiency and customer retention.