Netflix is delivering the most trouble-free streaming service amid the jump in video streaming during the coronavirus crisis, according to a new study.
Netflix users reported just 0.07 technical problems per hour of content streamed on average, according to a J.D. Power April 24-26 survey of U.S. streaming users.
That’s meaningfully lower than problem incidents reported for Amazon Prime Video and Hulu (0.11), Disney Plus (0.12) and YouTube TV (0.13). Technical problem rates were even higher among all other streaming services, at 0.17 per hour streamed.
To be sure, the error rates are very low across all streaming services in the study. But in the streaming wars, even the tiniest incremental differences can have big ramifications in retaining subscribers.
With its high rates of content engagement and low technical problems, Netflix is the No. 1 service consumers said they would keep in response to the hypothetical question of which service they would pick if they could keep only one. About 54% of respondent said they would choose Netflix, followed by Amazon Prime Video (17%), Hulu (13%) and Disney Plus (4%), per the J.D. Power study. (A caveat: The survey did not poll users about price.)
“There is no question that the great content is critical for streaming service success, but the quality of audio and video… is the key differentiator for top-performing streaming providers,” Ian Greenblatt, managing director of J.D. Power’s technology, media and telecom practice, wrote in the report released this week. He cited factors such as sharp picture resolution, fast loading speeds, responsive controller inputs and perfect synchronization between audio and video as contributors to overall customer satisfaction.
Streaming Problems per Hour Watched
Source: J.D. Power TMT Insight COVID-19 Pulse Report, April 2020
That said, Netflix — like any other always-on service — occasionally hits technical turbulence. Most recently, on March 25, Netflix’s web-based streaming service experienced an hour-long outage across the U.S. and Europe.
Note, too, that the J.D. Power study was U.S.-only, and some Netflix customers in the U.K. and Europe have complained that the streamer has continued to throttle back video bit rates (a program designed to cut back data usage during the coronavirus pandemic).
Overall, though, Netflix outperforms rivals on reliability, something J.D. Power attributed in part to its longstanding hybrid content delivery network (CDN) strategy. Under Netflix’s Open Connect program, first introduced in 2012, the company has agreements with internet service providers around the world to co-locate streaming servers to localize “substantial amounts” of traffic as close as possible to end users.
The J.D. Power report is based on a survey of 1,232 U.S. adults conducted April 24-26, 2020. About 67% of streaming video users say they are spending “somewhat” or “substantially” more time streaming than they did before COVID-19 lockdowns, the study found.
That’s borne out by data from Nielsen, which says streaming to TVs continues at elevated levels. For the week of May 11-17, U.S. broadband households streamed 141.7 billion minutes of video to televisions — up 75% from the comparable period in 2019. Netflix represented 32% of total streaming minutes for the most recent period, followed by YouTube at 21%.
The competitive noise in the streaming segment is about to ratchet up several notches: WarnerMedia’s HBO Max is launching next week (though it currently doesn’t have deals with Roku, Amazon and Comcast) followed by the national rollout of NBCUniversal’s Peacock set for July.