Biggest QoE Scandals and How to Avoid Them: A Guide to Ensuring Superior Streaming Quality

Quality of experience (QoE) in video broadcasting refers to how  well the user experiences the video content they are streaming. This is a key factor in the industry, especially now. With so much competition, a less than satisfactory viewing experience can be detrimental for companies. Seamless viewership is a customer non-negotiable and those who lack in this area will be heavily affected. Many organizations have already faced scandals due to poor QoE. In this article we will explore some of them and provide insights in order to prevent similar pitfalls. 

1. Scandal #1: Woes During Live Sports Events

The first scandal we are going to tackle is the NBA Heal-Celtics game that was played earlier this year. Fans were furious at YouTube TV given an unexpected issue  that disrupted the viewing experience. When the game entered a commercial break, the streaming service encountered problems. This incident occurred with a little over four minutes remaining in the game, with the Heat maintaining a five-point lead. Many viewers reported seeing a repetitive ad that kept pausing and restarting and unfortunately, the stream never recovered for the remainder of the game. This not only affected YouTube TV in social media, where fans were not shy to share their complaints, but it also completely discredited the brand, especially in the media. 

      Sports Illustrated

In order to avoid mistakes like this, we suggest two solutions: 

  1. Adaptive bitrate streaming: Adaptive bitrate streaming, a technique for enhancing streaming performance on HTTP networks, revolves around the concept of "bitrate." Bitrate refers to the speed at which data travels through a network. It frequently characterizes the velocity of an internet connection. In simple terms, a fast internet connection is equal to a high-bitrate connection. This approach  proposes that the video quality should be adjusted based on the viewer's internet speed. This results in an optimization of the viewer experience.
  2. Proper network configuration: Proper network configuration refers to the optimization of settings of computer networks to ensure they operate efficiently and effectively. Within these configurations, you will find many categories which must be analyzed. For example, configuring routers and switches hosting configuration, deployment of configuring software and firewall set up. Configuring this adequately will ensure better QoE and QoS in your broadcasts. 

2. Scandal #2: Inadequate Resolution and Picture Quality

YouTube TV is also an example of the consequences that inadequate resolution and picture quality can have on a company. This year the brand has been under fire on social media with thousands of threads pertaining to the video quality seen on screens. Examples of some complaints include: 

This issue has detrimentally affected user trust and the company's overall reputation, given that viewers no longer believe the promises that there will be improvements and have been forced to look for other alternatives. To avoid scandals such as this, it is recommended to ensure optimal bitrate and employ quality assurance measures, meaning that you should make sure that the rate at which data is transmitted over a network (bitrate) is set at the most efficient level. This will ensure that data flows smoothly without overloading the network or causing disruptions.

3. Scandal #3: Sudden Service Outages

Sudden service outages also pose a crucial risk which is why it is key to have robust infrastructure, redundancy, and effective crisis management plans. An example where a sudden outage led to negative headlines is the Akamai outage. Akamai is an American content delivery network (CDN), cybersecurity, and cloud service company that provides web and Internet security services. In July 2021,  Sky News Reported websites including Barclays, HSBC, British Airways and Airbnb were down due to Akamai engineers who ran into a bug and brought the sites down. Even though this was fixed in an hour,  there were numerous consequences, such as customer churn and financial losses. The company even stated, "Cybersecurity breaches and attacks on us … could lead to significant costs and disruptions that would harm our business, financial results and reputation" (2021). 

4. Scandal #4: Inadequate CDN Performance Leading to Poor User Experience

User experience can also be negatively affected by insufficient CDN performance, which can result in large-scale service disruptions, eroding customer trust and brand value. For example, 

In the 2022 FIFA World Cup many streaming ads such as  Jio Cinema, ITVX,  TSN Sports, Peacock, SBS on Demand, BBC iPlayer and even the Official FIFA App suffered. Common problems related to crashes, lagging, playback freezes, audio issues and more. Specifically, Peacock experienced an issue where the audio and video got out of sync every time an advertisement ended, infuriating the viewers. This is why it is key to have robust CDN strategies, multi-CDN approaches, and geographical distribution in order to ensure high availability and low latency.

5. Scandal #5: Security Breaches Affecting Service Reliability

The far reaching consequences of security breaches in the streaming infrastructure are detrimental. Outcomes of a compromised live streams include distrust among viewers, legal responsibilities and regulatory compliance challenges, the risk of sensitive data exposure, interruptions or disturbances, or harm to equipment and network infrastructure. A recent example of a security breach is the case of Indonesia's House of Representatives' Youtube getting hacked on September 6, 2023. The Secretary General of the House of Representatives, Indra Iskandar, confirmed that the account was hacked and featured online gambling live streams.  According to Indonesia Expat, Surya stated “The broadcast of at least four live video shows, two videos with thumbnails of the Canli Yayindayiz Slot Line, and two videos with thumbnails of the Fikret Canli Yayin Slot on the official YouTube account belonging to the House of Representatives of Indonesia is indeed a very embarrassing situation." This serves as a reminder to have security protocols, including firewall configurations, encrypted data transmission, and regular security audits to maintain service integrity.

These real-life examples prove that investing in a reliable, scalable, and secure infrastructure isn't simply a contingency; it's a requirement for building and maintaining a loyal customer base. As we've seen, the consequences of inadequate infrastructure can be costly, both in terms of customer trust and financial losses. To avoid scandals like these, we encourage you to prioritize your infrastructure reviews and updates as part of your  QoE enhancement strategies 

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