ABC News Ranks Tops in Video Stream Availability

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ABC News' Web site won the top score for video stream availability in a study by Keynote Systems Inc., a Web performance measurement and management services company in San Mateo, CA.


One of several news sites measured April 24 through May 7, ABCNews.com registered 99.84 percent availability and an average StreamQ grade of A+, up from 97.11 percent and B+ a few years ago.


StreamQ is a Keynote metric measuring overall stream quality based on connect time, buffer time and rebuffer time. These three criteria affect an end user's perception of the quality of the video news feed.


Availability, on the other hand, is the number of times Keynote measurement computers were able to access the stream and play the news clip.


All other news sites measured -- BBC News, Canada's CBC News, CBS News, CNN News, Fox News and MSNBC News -- showed availability scores of 98 percent or more for their top video stories over the two weeks measured.


Bar BBC News, these sites had an A+ StreamQ grade. The British broadcaster's site averaged a connect time of 0.79 seconds, next only to CNN. But its low grade from Keynote resulted from too much buffering. Users, on average, had to wait 18 seconds for a BBC video stream to start.


By contrast, Fox News' site recorded the fastest average startup times. Streams at www.foxnews.com started 1.7 seconds after the initial click.


"There's been a tremendous improvement across the board in the quality of video streaming you can get," said Shai Berger, Toronto-based general manager of Keynote's streaming division and leader of the report on online news video quality.


The sites measured by Keynote using its Streaming Perspective service were chosen with care. They regularly updated news and had at least 10 current-event news videos. Though the New York Times' site at www.nytimes.com qualified, it had no central location for news videos like the others.


This study indicates the growing importance news media place on their online channels. As more consumers migrate online to get their information, the media are spending time and money on site design, timeliness of content and streaming to simulate the television experience.


A new Accustream Research study notes that streaming media last year was up 104 percent to 7.8 billion streams. Of these, news garnered a 28 percent viewing share, second to music videos at 33 percent. About 78 percent of the video streams were viewed at broadband rates.


Clearly, broadband users at work and home are powering the growth in streaming media. Accustream concludes that people are watching and listening to news videos online more often and for longer stretches of time.


Keynote's study did not find major differences across measurement locations in streaming availability. But measurement location affected what it calls frustration time -- connect time, buffer time and rebuffer time. For example, CBC has a problem delivering video streams to Tokyo, while BBC News showed hardly any difference in buffering times to Tokyo. CNN, Keynote found, had issues with Tokyo as well as Washington, DC.


The study also took into account variation in Internet performance coinciding with the daily routines of consumers straining server and network capacity. Keynote concocted a value to that: a connection error rate, which is the inverse of availability. So if the rate is 1 percent, availability is 99 percent.


Against that yardstick, BBC News's site had a higher error rate between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern time. This works out to afternoon hours in the BBC's home market of Britain. CBC's numbers showed that its main audience visited in the evening hours, Eastern time.


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