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How to Weigh the Impact of Offline Downloads on your Streaming Service

As streaming becomes an ever-more established behavioral trend globally, online video providers are faced with a double-edged sword. Demand for online video is higher than ever, but so too is competition for space in consumers’ viewing habits. User expectations are on the rise and, as it is easier than ever to switch from one service to another, video providers are hunting for every competitive edge they can gain to deliver the best possible experience to their audience.

Cue an increase in demand for offline downloads, a trend that is well-placed to benefit from a maturing subscription-based market, skyrocketing mobile viewership, and rising demands for quality.

Offline Downloads VIdeo Analytics
Offline downloads: a rising trend allowing video providers to reach on-the-go viewers with faultless quality.

 

The ability to download content and enjoy high quality regardless of connection is a benefit that is increasingly expected from a user perspective, and that is fast becoming a staple offering for providers. According to research released by Penthera in Q2 2020, 59% of US streaming service users expected services to allow them to download videos, and 67% said they have downloaded video to their mobile devices, up from 54% in 2019, and 40% in 2018 (a 68% increase over 3 years).

This could be because users still face connectivity issues either with cellular service when on-the-go or with their wifi at home. In fact, though many providers believe users only download while traveling, downloading on mobile to watch at home is increasingly common. “Even in recent months, as populations around the world have been sheltering in place, there has actually been an uptick in mobile video downloading (400% YoY)—despite severe decreases in air travel and public transit use globally,” said Penthera.

 

What impact do offline downloads have on your streaming service?

There are several reasons to consider adding a downloads feature to a streaming offering, not least of all to deliver content to your users in the way they want to enjoy it. Crucially, when people watch content offline, Quality of Experience metrics are no longer as relevant. This is because, once downloaded, content is being watched on their hard disk and very rarely would they experience buffering, long join times, or other service provision problems that would usually be a priority for a streaming service.

However, as with every decision in the streaming industry today, it is vital to maintain visibility over audience behavior and to weigh the benefit of adding a download functionality to their streaming solution against the implementation costs. With visibility over the behavior of the audience that is watching content offline (collectable by a player-side analytic service like YOUBORA) a video provider can answer the following key questions:

 

How many of my users are watching offline video content?

First of all, to maintain visibility over your audience, you need to know whether or not your users have benefited from the download feature, with precise data about how many users download content and how often. If you want to make sure your user base is making the most of this feature, make UX changes, A/B tests, and iterations to increase and facilitate uptake.

 

Do offline downloads move the needle on user retention?

With YOUBORA, you can filter by viewing mode to measure audience engagement levels for both downloaded content and content viewed online. With real-time knowledge of how long and how often users watch downloaded content, not only can you learn more about your audience’s behavioral patterns, you can also identify the impact this feature has on your overall platform health. What percentage of your overall playtime is viewed offline? What are the quality differences between streamed content and downloaded content? These are essential questions to be able to answer to understand how your users are experiencing downloads, and – over time – what effect the feature is having on user stickiness.

 

How should I configure my offline downloads?

There are several decisions to be made when implementing offline downloads which benefit from player-side user data. Ad-supported video providers, for example, often need to refresh ad content to be able to monetize ad views on downloaded video: with player-side analytics, service providers can investigate usage trends to find the balance between satisfying users and effectively monetizing offline content. Additionally, experiment with different download file sizes, and test what length or genre of content is most downloaded to better serve your audience.

Without metrics like this, providers would have to rely on incomplete or unreliable data to understand the effect of incorporating offline downloads into their service. With them, they can monitor and evaluate its exact impact, looking at the uptake of the feature, the consumption and engagement levels of content that is downloaded, and their user retention levels before and after the deployment.

 

“Even though users are watching offline, publishers still want to learn from their behavior. With YOUBORA, they can know what content is downloaded, how much of it is consumed, and if there is any error in the process.”

– Igon Etxebeste Urdangarin, Customer Engineer, NPAW

 

In the streaming ecosystem, content remains king but quality is not far behind, and any way to ensure a premium delivery of expensive licensed content or maintain traffic levels to ad-supported content should be top of a video provider’s list of priorities. At NPAW we are dedicated to guiding video providers to build efficient and user-driven streaming solutions. For more information about how to incorporate objective, viewer-side data into your decision-making, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our video industry experts for a free consultation.

Johnny Crisp on June 03rd 2020

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