When Streaming Isn’t Enough: Push Video for Better Engagement

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You care deeply about quality user experience in your mobile video applications. It’s hard enough to get people to watch your content in the first place, let alone putting up with playback stuttering, stalling or buffering.

Bottom line: when a user presses “play”, you want stuff to happen, and happen fast.

Your Millennial audience in particular is an impatient bunch. Studies show that a delay between 500 milliseconds and five seconds results in abandonment. One click and their hard won attention goes elsewhere.

What’s standing in the way of instant mobile playback?

Cellular networks have their challenges when it comes to streaming video delivery. Too much data squeezed into limited spectrum (a.k.a. Shannon’s law for those information theory buffs.) Content caching points are on servers somewhere on the other side of the mobile network. The most optimized CDN strategy in the world can’t compensate for congestion at the local base station. 5G is on the horizon, but will be several years before it reaches a critical mass of users.

What can be done? Enter predictive prepositioning.

We’ve been thinking about a better mobile video experience for a number of years. Our solution is Push Video – preloading a video on to the user’s phone, before they know they want to watch it. It works like this:

  • Predictive algorithms select the content from the CMS
  • A piece of video is pre-loaded onto the phone
  • Delivery over Wifi or off-peak cellular
  • Behavioral analytics determine the best time to let the user know the content is there

This is deeply impactful to the quality of user experience. Videos instantly start in full HD. There’s no stalling or buffering, ever. You’re providing a TV-like experience on mobile, and coverage (WiFi or cellular) doesn’t matter.

The results we’ve seen when video owners try it have been impressive. It turns out pre-positioned content is a gateway to longer streaming sessions. If users’ first experience with your service is an instant-start, HD video, they’ll stick around for 3 times longer. That’s 3x more minutes viewed, and 3x more opportunities for monetization.

Push Video has applications for optimizing new mobile ad formats too. Ultra-short form units, e.g. 3 and 6 seconds, will work much better when they start instantly. It’s still possible to manage campaigns – just preload a day’s worth of ad units, and refresh every 24 hours. All prepositioned videos can be deleted each day, or per the ad network policy.

We’re not talking about replacing streaming. On-demand, live events, and rights issues all mean the bulk of video consumption will continue to be streamed. But a hybrid approach using Push Video for promos, ads, or even the first 3 minutes of a show, then streaming the rest, means a more engaged audience.

A high quality upfront experience means users stick around longer, are better able to be monetized, and are more likely to come back for more. And that’s a good outcome for your mobile video business.

This post is adapted from my “5 Minute Defense” presentation at the TV of Tomorrow in San Francisco on 6/07/2016. Thanks to Colin Dixon for the invitation!

Mark Adams is CEO of Incoming Media, a startup creating new revenue models for mobile operators. Like this and follow me for regular updates on mobile, media and the video value chain.