Accenture recently did a study on Video Over Internet Consumers and there were some pretty interesting findings in the report. Today I’m going to look at perceived problems with online video from the consumer standpoint which had some pretty surprising stuff.

As always, I like to give you their methodology so you get an idea of where they got their data. Accenture says:

The survey was conducted as an online omnibus among 7,503 consumers between 24  February and 2 March 2012. The countries covered were Argentina, Brazil, France,
Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US. The fieldwork survey is handled by an external agency on behalf of Accenture.

So that’s eight major countries that were surveyed. But the break down of respondents is more even than the respective populations of the countries that were included in the survey.

Countries like the US (300 million+), Brazil (around 200 million) had the same number of respondents as countries like the UK, France and Italy (all around 60-70 million). That also means it’s just under 1000 respondents for the US. That’s going to add in some margin of error when talking about country specific stats.

On top of that, out of all 7,503 respondents, 91.5% were Internet video consumers which certainly could not extrapolate out to the population of the entire planet or even the individual countries as we estimate, based on the last comScore Video Metrix numbers that even just 83.5% of the US population is consuming online video.

Here’s another look at the respondents for reference:

I think what all this means is that the numbers are probably going to be higher than expected.

Consumer Issues & Concerns with Online Video

Now that you’ve got some idea of who was responding to the survey we can talk about what they see as problems with online video. The number one problem or concern is video advertising. That’s really something since, again according to comScore Video Metrix for March just 51.2% of the US population was hit by online video ads. Then again, Hulu does bombard viewers with an astounding 50.7 ads per viewer each month. Next closest was ESPN with 26.4. Maybe the 13% who responded from the US were all Hulu users?

The second largest concern was time to buffer or download a video. However, with the prolific spread of high-speed broadband in the US I don’t think that’s a problem. I can get a video streaming from an online service in a matter of seconds and I’ve only got about a 16Mbps Internet connection. I guess, as an industry we should take that as we need to use better compression algorithms and technologies.

The flip side of that, of course, if video quality and that was the third-most-popular concern, video quality. So if we do try new data compression techniques we have to make sure that we don’t sacrifice quality of resolution. Again, here at the office, we’ve got a projector throwing up an 8-foot image and many of the ads getting injected into online streams are 4:3, standard definition atrocities that make my eyes hurt when they break up a nice 720p stream. Those streams we watch that aren’t 720p but in the SD range are eye-watering enough without the ads sometimes.

Some other concerns for one in five respondents was cost of the content and cost of downloading the video or the cost of the bandwidth to do so. I don’t have any data on how many of those countries have metered bandwidth but this would again go to compression on the video content I think as well as balancing the price for the video or subscription versus perceived value by the consumer. Personally, $3 for a single TV episode is ridiculous, especially when it was aired for free on broadcast TV and many could simply set up their DVR rig and keep the content indefinitely, like I do with some.

I do think my Hulu Plus subscription is well-balanced in regards to price vs. value. Sometimes I use it to catch up when two shows air at the same time or I’m simply not home to watch something. I found that the $50 a month I saved by canceling my digital cable was the perfect move because 80% of what I watch is on Hulu for $8, and I was paying for both part of the time anyway.

Finally, navigation was an issue for some respondents. Now in my time as a contributor here at ReelSEO I have seen some horrible user interfaces but they’ve been the minority of the services I’ve visited and used. That being said, there are some Over the Top boxes I’ve used that had some serious UI issues. It’s important to test your interface and make sure that users can get what they want and do it without having to fiddle about too long. I’ll use the Xbox 360 dashboard as an example, it’s first and foremost a gaming console. However, in the last update, games have fallen to fourth place in the menu and so you have to scroll through things that the system wasn’t purchased for like social apps, TV, and video, to get to the games area. Personally, I think that’s terrible design when we’ve been paying $5-60 a game for a half dozen years. Clearly it was purchased for gaming, I don’t know anyone who bought one just to have it as a video entertainment system and certainly no one I know bought it for social Internet apps.

Granted, that might be changing and it could be how Microsoft is trying to position the system for the near future until the new console comes out in order to maintain their sales numbers, but if that’s the case, then the dashboard should be customizable and we should be able to rank the panels in the order we want to see them. Essentially, what they’re doing these days is burying the lead in my opinion.

But the thing is, as Internet video, IPTV and streaming become more dominant and prolific, consumers will become less tolerant of shoddy user interfaces because we’ve come to expect a certain level of quality. Look at the progression of the TV programming guide if you need proof. It used to be we would crack open a newspaper or TV Guide to get the info we needed, then find the remote and change the channel. That went to an actual channel with TV listings that scrolled without any user control, which wasted a lot of our time waiting for the channel we were looking for to scroll back round. Then came the interactive channel guide where you could skip to the channel you wanted and push a button to get there. Now it’s a combination of that and being able to check the guide without having to even leave the channel you’re on.

That’s the sort of evolution that IPTV providers are going to have to supply and I think, for the most part, is happening. But the moment you start getting lazy and resting on your laurels is when the world and the users will pass you by for some other service with a better interface, better price vs. value  and better quality… even if it’s the exact same content.

Stay tuned for more of my thoughts and analysis on the Accenture Video Over Internet Consumer Survey 2012.