By Charlie Kraus, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Limelight Networks
From pub drinks to theatre performances, in the past few months, individuals and businesses alike have shown a great talent for inventing virtual experiences for us to enjoy during lockdown. Not surprisingly, the research shows that people are increasingly turning to online video for daily activities during the COVID-19 pandemic and global usage growth shows no signs of stopping. What is surprising is the seismic shift in global viewing habits that took place almost overnight and the impact video is now having on the ways we work, socialise and experience leisure activities.
However, in the UK we’ve also seen a very different parallel narrative, with consumers feeling fatigued from online videos and virtual activities, hinting there is still more for the industry to do before online video truly achieves its potential when it comes to delivering engaging experiences.
Video viewing habits shift almost overnight
The definition of online video viewing has shifted as dramatically as the increase in the amount of video consumed on a daily basis during the first two months of UK lockdown. Online video has been primarily associated with streaming video platforms such as Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. However, over the past few months, online video has taken an additional new role as a top source of collaboration among workers at home, entertainment, education, social interactions and information. In fact, the global average of four hours and three minutes per day of online video viewing is a dramatic increase compared to a single hour average measured in the State of Online Video 2019 study just six months ago, due in large part to the new uses of video.
The rise of virtual activities during lockdown
With the shutdown of workout facilities, many people have participated or plan to participate in virtual workouts. In the UK, a third of us (31%) have tried an online fitness workout in the past two months, with a further 16% planning to give one a go in the next six months. However, the anticipation of joining the gym once again has not been lost on Brits, as half of us (51%) still aren’t tempted by working out from home.
With more time spent at home, many people globally (66%) are taking advantage of online classes to try a new hobby or improve their skills. Interest in online classes to learn hobbies (such as gardening, woodwork, and cooking) in the UK was apparent with 24% of respondents considering these services. However, only 19% of Brits plan on learning a language using online video in the next year.
Online video still has its challenges
However, the question remains on whether the increase in online video consumption during the pandemic will remain as popular as lockdown restrictions around the world begin to ease? More importantly, what can businesses do to help their online video offerings compete with the return of more physical formats and locations for experiential activities?
The report illustrates that video has increasingly become part of our daily lives in many ways. Viewers still expect great performance and user experience regardless of where or how they are watching video. Yet, two-thirds of Brits (61%) have had technical issues with the online video for virtual events in the past two months. Many of these are linked to difficulties delivering high-quality online video with the speed and convenience UK consumers expect. The most common complaint with online video offerings was internet connectivity problems (36%), followed by videos loading slowly (13%) and poor-quality video (12%). When it comes to those virtual activities which had very low levels of adoption such as language learning, the need for effective interpersonal engagement is key – meaning that issues with online video that interrupt the experience are even more detrimental to the overall experience.
Content providers can solve these challenges by using a CDN video delivery service that continually monitors and optimises video delivery based on real-time conditions. This ensures each viewer receives the highest picture quality while minimising rebuffering that causes viewers to stop watching.
How the world is changing online video?
The findings in this report demonstrate how online video filled a void and allowed them to continue many daily activities and stay connected to people during lockdown and overall, consumers liked the options it presents.
However, what must also be learnt is that, whether for work or play, people in the UK simply aren’t willing to put up with poor online video experiences. Too often, video latency or a poor-quality picture can prevent virtual activities from delivering the personal connection and experiential benefits that consumers expect. As global video usage continues to grow year on year, neglecting the quality of online video experiences could hurt businesses’ ability to embrace growth opportunities and improve their operational flexibility.
As we enter our “new normal” following the pandemic, many workplaces will likely shift to being more flexible with remote working options. Expect far-reaching changes in how people socialise and work, impacting entertainment, travel, the commercial office market, and many other ways we can’t foresee yet. No matter what changes occur, online video will continue to be a key enabler.