What Drives Consumers Crazy About Streaming Video

An array of screens displaying different streaming platforms, illustrating the widespread use and concerns in the digital entertainment sector.

Despite the convenience, vast access to unprecedented amounts of video content, and the cost savings that the cord-cutting phenomenon has benefitted consumers over the past two decades, there have been bumps in the road — and it’s getting bumpier for many consumers.

In recent years, streaming television content has transformed how we consume entertainment. Legacy platforms like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ have become household names, offering a vast array of shows, movies, and original content. However, despite their widespread popularity, these platforms are not without their share of issues and complaints from users.

Let’s delve into the top five concerns viewers often express when using these legacy streaming services.

The Content Disappearing Act

One of the most common complaints among streaming platform users is the transient nature of content. Subscribers often find themselves immersed in a series or eager to watch a particular movie, only to discover that it has vanished from the platform’s library. This occurrence is primarily due to the ever-shifting landscape of licensing agreements.

Content providers like Netflix and Disney+ constantly negotiate licensing deals with studios and production companies. These agreements come with expiration dates; when they expire, the platforms may remove the content in question. This practice can be incredibly frustrating for viewers who expect access to a consistent catalog of shows and movies.

Moreover, the rotating content can lead to confusion. Users might add a show to their watchlist only to find it gone when they finally decide to watch it. This inconsistency in content availability is a significant source of dissatisfaction for subscribers.

Buffering and Quality Woes

Another prominent issue plaguing streaming platforms is the quality of the streaming experience. Buffering, pixelation, and audio synchronization problems can disrupt an otherwise enjoyable viewing session. These technical issues often arise due to network-related problems or server overload on the platform.

Buffering, in particular, is a common source of frustration. It occurs when the video playback pauses to load more content, causing interruptions in the viewing experience. While some amount of buffering is inevitable, excessive buffering can make watching content smoothly impossible.

Pixelation, where the video becomes blocky or blurry, and audio sync issues, where the audio doesn’t match the on-screen action, can make content unwatchable. Users who pay for high-definition streaming expect a seamless and high-quality experience; technical glitches can undermine this expectation.

While average broadband download speeds have been steadily increasing over the past decade, which mitigates this problem, large rural sections of the United States still have sub-50 Mbps download speeds. This inadequate bandwidth is not ideal for reliable video content streaming, particularly in households with large families wanting simultaneous multiple streaming sessions.

Ad Overload and Subscription Costs

Many streaming platforms offer both free and paid subscription tiers, and some even incorporate ads into their premium offerings. This situation has led to complaints from users who feel bombarded with advertisements despite paying for a premium service.

While ad-supported free tiers help make content accessible to a broader audience, the frequency and intrusiveness of ads can be a significant turnoff. For example, viewers on YouTube may encounter ads before, during, and after videos, disrupting the flow of content.

On the other hand, subscription costs have steadily risen for some platforms. Users who initially subscribed to these services for affordability may now feel the pinch. They expect their subscription fees to guarantee an ad-free experience and access to a wide range of content. When platforms continue to increase subscription costs while introducing more ads, it becomes a contentious issue for subscribers.

Netflix may be the poster child for this issue. The company’s recent pricing changes have left subscribers frustrated for several reasons:

  • The price hike comes amid growing competition in the streaming market, making subscribers question whether they are getting value for their money.
  • While Netflix continues investing in original content, some users perceive a decrease in the quality and quantity of licensed content.
  • Deciding to charge more for higher-resolution streaming feels like an additional cost burden.
  • The timing of the increase, during a time of economic uncertainty, has irked many subscribers.

These factors collectively contribute to the frustration felt by Netflix’s loyal user base.

International Content Limitations

If you live outside the United States, you know first-hand how painful this problem is. Due to licensing and copyright restrictions, streaming platforms often tailor their content libraries to specific regions or countries. While this may be understandable from a legal standpoint, it can be a significant source of frustration for viewers worldwide.

Users in the United States may enjoy a more extensive selection of content than viewers in other countries. This discrepancy in content availability can lead to feelings of unfairness and disappointment, especially when international viewers are interested in content that isn’t accessible in their region.

While platforms have tried to expand their global reach, addressing international content limitations remains a complex challenge, as it involves negotiating new licensing agreements and navigating different legal and cultural landscapes.

User Interface Woes and Inaccurate Recommendations

A streaming platform’s user interface (UI) plays a crucial role in the overall user experience. Unfortunately, some users find the UIs of legacy platforms to be complex, unintuitive, or cluttered. Navigating through a labyrinth of menus and submenus can be frustrating when viewers only want to find something to watch quickly.

Moreover, the recommendation algorithms employed by these platforms sometimes miss the mark. While the intention is to help users discover new content tailored to their preferences, the algorithms can be hit-or-miss. Users may receive recommendations that don’t align with their interests, causing them to miss out on content they might enjoy.

Since most streaming platforms see user interfaces as part of their overall branding efforts, things can quickly get confusing if a consumer utilizes multiple platforms (which is common). This multi-platform dynamic can often leave consumers frustrated and discouraged.

Closing Thoughts

Without question, legacy streaming platforms like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ have revolutionized how we consume content. However, these services are not immune to criticism and complaints from users.

The transient nature of content availability, technical issues, ad-related concerns, international content limitations, and user interface woes are all valid grievances that impact the streaming experience. These platforms must continue to evolve and adapt to user feedback, and addressing these issues will be paramount to maintaining their popularity and satisfying their global user base.

There are other challenges in addition to those detailed above. Content discovery remains a big problem as some users often pay for a movie and access to a favorite TV series, only to discover they could have viewed it with one of their existing subscriptions.

After years of explosive growth during the pandemic that forced people indoors for seemingly endless stretches, many industry experts have predicted a coming streaming content market shakeout.

Such shakeouts are common occurrences in crowded markets, especially when companies cannot differentiate or distinguish their products (content, in this case).

The headwinds outlined in this analysis are not going to help the situation. One can only hope that market consolidation might benefit subscribers in the long term with platforms sensitive to these issues and create a substantially better user experience.

Mark N. Vena

Mark N. Vena has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2022. As a technology industry veteran for over 25 years, Mark covers numerous tech topics, including PCs, smartphones, smart homes, connected health, security, PC and console gaming, and streaming entertainment solutions. Vena is the CEO and Principal Analyst at SmartTech Research, based in Silicon Valley. Email Mark.

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