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Online viewers start leaving if video doesn’t play in 2 seconds, says study

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As revenues decline for traditional forms of online advertising, video is emerging as a bright spot for many media companies. It offers an opportunity for long engagement and hefty ad rates — but also a challenge to make it work.

A new study reports that faster internet connections have made viewers more impatient, and that people begin abandoning videos if they don’t load within two seconds. Every second of additional delay results in approximately 6 percent more viewers jumping ship. This chart shows how about 20 percent of viewers are gone after five seconds but that viewers are slightly more patient for long-length videos:

The research comes by way of Ramesh Sitaraman, a computer science professor at UMass Amherst, who studied data representing 23 million video views from 6.7 million unique visitors. The study offers new metrics for streaming views to complement existing studies that describe the “four second rule” — the amount of time people will wait for a webpage to download. It also shows that people will abandon a video faster based on their type of connection (note how people are more patient with mobile) :

The study, which you can read for yourself here (PDF), contains no startling surprises — most of us probably suspected that people give up on watching videos that don’t load. But it does provide useful empirical evidence for companies who must decide how to invest architecture to support their video platforms.

Akamai, a content delivery network that helps sites speed up delivery, provided data and research space for the study but did not influence its findings, according to a spokesperson.

(Image by andrea michele piacquadio via Shutterstock)

26 Responses to “Online viewers start leaving if video doesn’t play in 2 seconds, says study”

  1. If a user is interested in the video she will wait e secs. Those who don’t are very likely to abandon it during the pre-roll commercial or into the first 10 seconds of content anyway. The question rather is: how to create videos that interest your audience.

  2. I think this article just goes to show how hard it is to keep a user engaged online these days. If they’re only willing to wait 2 seconds for a video to play, what hope do we have of them reading paragraphs of our content?

  3. Wilton Said

    It’s not the load speed so much as the damn ads. Youtube’s not too bad because you can often skip the ad in 5 minutes, but other streaming sites don’t give you the option. On most news sites, their streaming video is preluded by a non skip-able ad. In those cases, I don’t even bother watching the ad or the video.

  4. deintegrro

    And it is similar to closing the page if it is not loading after several seconds. The amount of new content available every moment you are online is so huge that is doesn’t matter if you miss something. You will either find it elsewhere else if it is really interesting or never see it again and won’t lose much.

  5. Alexander Rengel

    Interesting research. I think we all knew the facts, but its interesting to finally put a percentage in our heads, and to draw up a direct correlation between delay, and loss of audience. It would be interesting to see how delays affect other things too, like general web content.

    I have a wordpress site, and for some users, the content takes a few seconds to load. I have been told that this can be frustrating, and has caused people to simply go back to their search and look elsewhere.
    Great read, thanks.

  6. I would say certain videos make me more impatient like the article stated. For instance if I’m on YouTube and it’s a 3 minute clip I get frustrated if it’s taking a long time to buffer. If it is a longer video I give it a kettle note patient because I understand it’s a larger file to stream. However when I’m on my LTE network and when any video is taking awhile to buffer I immediately get impatient. I mean everyone is saying that LTE is faster than most Wi-Fi connections and I’ve actually tested it against my home Wi-Fi connection.

    My home Wi-Fi connection is 40MBs download (at least that what my Service provider told me I haven’t noticed a difference really when it was only 20MBs, but I digress) My LTE blew my Wi-Fi connection out of the water and I only had 2 bars of connection speed. However I still feel that when I’m on my laptop at home I get faster buffering times that on my GALAXY NEXUS on LTE. Why that is I have no idea. Maybe someone else could explain it to me in layman’s terms.

    • Sometimes I really really really hate Swype. Sorry guys if I started sounding like I was drunk and high art the same time. What I was trying to say was ” If it is a longer video I gi’ve it a LITTLE MORE PATIENCE because I understand it’s a larger file to stream.”

      I hope this made more sense.

      • Also I had another thought this generally pertains to mobile streaming, well it could pertain to both. Because last I heard is mobile viewing is going to HTML5 instead of flash and if I’m not mistaken most Full Desktop sites are going to start implementing this into they’re sites as well. So shouldn’t this help with streaming generally with faster buffering and less videos that won’t play?

  7. James Sawyer

    Very thorough research. There are many more interesting results in the linked paper. How users watch less if there is video stalls too much. How they come back less if there are failures. They are almost more interesting than this.

    Like the users abandoning the video, did Jeff just abandon the paper after a few pages? :-)

    -your longer attention span friend:-)

  8. On Mobile Video there is absolutely no way to load a video in less than 5-10 seconds. it simply never happens. So this data must be related to PC.
    And i don’t buy it that mobile users abandon video after 2 seconds they have no expectations to view video that fast.
    One solution for mobile video acceleration is Giraffic – check out this benchmark – reduces time to initial playback by approx 40% and more importantly: reduces re-buffering pauses by over 90%.

  9. Jeremy Pepper

    There’s a reason that I avoid certain site’s embeds – I can never get them to load, and play. Of course, this is an obvious report but still interesting data.

  10. “Akamai, a content delivery network that helps sites speed up delivery, provided data and research space for the study but did not influence its findings, according to a spokesperson.”

    Of course not…

  11. Streaming high quality video over the mobile networks will never be a viable solution. Media companies and mobile operators need to embrace content pre-positioning technologies from companies like Opanga that are able to move massive amounts of contnet into the memory of mobile devices where it can be played back instantly and in high definition.

      • That’s just like saying viewers don’t care about HD viewing from their TV. It’s simply wrong. Name someone you know that owns a TV thats’s not HD. They don’t exist unless you call them grandma. Since you can consume the same content from your TV on your computer the standard is changing. Put two computers side by side, same content, one is HD quality one is not, which one would you watch. Exactly. And since the competition is becoming so fierce with content online, if you’re not pushing the highest bit rates, you won’t exist.