Testing OTT Streaming Media is a Challenge. Here’s Why.
The name for multimedia content that’s delivered online and on demand to viewers is over-the-top (OTT) media. OTT differs from traditional methods of delivering video content in that it employs regular HTTP servers and network infrastructures to deliver video as small files over transmission control protocol (TCP) connections. In OTT, audio, video, and multimedia content is a continuous “stream” that constantly adjusts for load and bandwidth issues.
Streaming Media Set to Take Over
In recent years we’ve seen a huge rise in the amount of streaming media being consumed daily. The widespread availability of content being pushed over the internet has dramatically changed viewing habits. Gone are the days of purchasing cable TV subscriptions, or sitting down in front of the TV at a specific time because your favorite show is on. Now, platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video rule the viewing universe as users pick and choose exactly what content they want to watch, where, and when.
This change in viewing habits is especially noticeable in the 18-29 age group, one of the most lucrative digital markets today. A study by Pew research found 61% of users in this age group say the primary way they watch television now is with streaming services on the internet. What does this mean for providers offering streaming content?
It means that user experience is the metric that will make or break your service.
In a recent blog post we discussed User Acceptance Testing and the reasons why testing from the user perspective is so important. User experience is often the first and only metric users judge your app, and nowhere more so than in OTT media. Here, user experience relies largely on the playback quality and service delivery.
Why is OTT Testing so Important?
In the world of video applications, the user decides when and what to watch — and will abandon a video if content doesn’t start streaming within 2 seconds. Each additional second of delay will see an additional 6% of your audience leave. This means that a 5 second delay can cost you a quarter of your audience!
To provide the all-important user experience, there are two primary OTT testing areas to consider. Let’s look at the major players in user satisfaction with OTT content.
1. Seamless Delivery: Your service and products are judged by their user experience and streaming consistency, so seamless delivery of content is critical to a positive user experience.
2. Playback Quality: If the content isn’t available on demand – and playable without delay – the audience quickly loses interest. With streaming, a positive user experience and sustained audience engagement is highly correlated with video playback performance.
What Should OTT Testing Encompass?
If seamless delivery and quality of playback are the gold standards for OTT users, what factors should OTT testing address? Testing your service for functionality is a given. But the user experience metric relies so heavily on playback quality, special attention should be given to two areas. Testing your OTT service for load handling capabilities is the first crucial element.
Here’s the scenario: It’s election night 2020, Oprah vs. Trump. You’re watching the results pour in via a live stream on your computer when all the sudden, the feed crashes. The content provider did not prepare for the amount of people that would be viewing the stream. Load and performance testing would have mitigated that risk, and prevented having a bevy of unhappy viewers (who are now scrambling to find a feed that hasn’t crashed under load!)
The second crucial OTT testing area is content delivery. Users today have a varied ecosystem of devices to use for viewing. These range from smartphones to “set-top” boxes such as Roku, and even some gaming devices. The user experience should be seamless across platforms.
Here’s the scenario: Your viewer began watching your content on a Roku during breakfast. Now, they’re on the bus to work and want to finish watching the segment they began during breakfast. Only now, they’re using their iPad to view. After opening the app on their iPad, they find the video is restarting from the beginning, rather than where they left off at breakfast. They’re frustrated because they aren’t automatically directed to where previous playback ended. After trying several times to fast-forward the video, and encountering buffering issues while doing so, they give up and watch something else. They may finish viewing your content later — or they might forget about it altogether. The wild world of OS and platforms creates a need to test your app for delivery consistency across this wide range of devices.
The OTT Recipe for Success
As with any software, OTT testing should encompass the basics of functionality and business goals. However, the nature of the streaming environment places an extra burden on companies to ensure user expectations are met. Fluctuating viewer loads and a huge variety of playback devices combine to create OTT testing challenges not typically seen with other platforms.
The recipe for success? Make sure your software QA plan addresses the twin challenges of consistent delivery and playback quality to ensure user satisfaction.