Akamai has opened a Broadcast Operations Control Center (BOCC) in its Cambridge, MA office, making a multi-million dollar investment in delivering over the top video at a quality level better than broadcast and cable TV. I received a tour of the BOCC last week from Matt Azzarto, Akamai’s director of media operations, who oversaw the BOCC’s construction over the past 6 months and will run it going forward. Matt came to Akamai from NBCU where he was a long-time broadcast systems engineer.
Akamai has integrated Adobe Primetime ad insertion into its network to enable server-side online video advertising. Red Bull Media House and Turner Broadcasting are both trialing the joint solution.
While other server-side ad solutions exist, John Bishop, CTO of Akamai's media business told me last week he sees this as a "Server-Side 2.0" offering because the ad requests run directly through Akamai's CDN, thereby eliminating slower communications paths that can hinder scalability.
I'm pleased to present the 232nd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
The World Cup is in full swing and as many predicted beforehand, live-streaming is a crucial part of how fans are following the action. Colin notes that Akamai (which is responsible for a lot of the live-streaming globally), said that back in the 2010 World Cup, the peak bandwidth used was 1.4 terabits/second. Akamai was expecting that level to quadruple this year.
Sure enough, in current group play, the Brazil-Mexico game already almost reached that target, registering 4.59 Tbps. That level will surely be exceeded as play moves on to the knockout stage (in which Colin's beloved England is unlikely to be participating).
A key part of the World Cup's streaming success is due to the proliferation of mobile viewing devices, and we next discuss data Ooyala released this week revealing that mobile's share of online views increased from 3.4% in Q1 '12 to 21.5% in Q1 '14. Live-streaming in particular was a big-driver, and that's mainly sports. We dig into the details.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (20 minutes, 28 seconds)
Vubiquity has announced AnyVU Cloud, a new cloud-based, multi-device video services platform providing both linear and on-demand content. In addition, the company has announced Akamai as its first partner, dubbing the combined solution "content-as-a-service." It is directed to existing pay-TV operators, content owners and OTT providers for a range of monetization models.
AnyVU Cloud is a milestone for Vubiquity in evolving from the traditional business of managing and delivering video primarily to set-top boxes for incumbent providers to operating in a far more complex landscape in which video is delivered over IP networks to multiple devices by multiple providers with widely varying business rules and monetization.
I'm pleased to present the 216th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. In today's podcast, we first discuss Disney Movies Anywhere, which launched this week. Both of us like it a lot (more of my take here). Colin believes it could also become a huge threat to UltraViolet if one other major studio were to adopt Disney's KeyChest technology.
Then we turn our attention to the Netflix-Comcast interconnection agreement, which has taken on a life of its own this week. It's rare when Colin and I see the world completely differently, but in this case, we do. Colin believes the deal sets a dangerous precedent because Netflix is being provided "extraordinary access" to Comcast's network and also that, going forward, if a content provider wants to get good performance on Comcast's network, it would have to do a deal with Comcast.
I don't see it this way. As I wrote earlier this week, the deal strikes me as business as usual, with the joint press release specifically saying "Netflix receives no preferential network treatment." Netflix made a business decision to negotiate directly with Comcast and manage/deliver their content themselves rather than work through a CDN which is what the vast majority of content providers do. This path obviously made sense for Netflix, but remember, it's in a somewhat unique situation because it accounts for 1/3 of all Internet traffic at certain times.
Because Netflix and Comcast said so little about the deal themselves, and because there is so much suspicion of Comcast (and other broadband ISPs) regarding net neutrality, market power, etc., a lot more has been read into this deal than I believe is warranted.
Colin and I have a very vigorous debate on these issues and ultimately agree to disagree :-)
Click here to listen to the podcast (30 minutes, 27 seconds)
Akamai and NBC Sports announced this morning that Akamai will be powering video streaming, site performance and security services for the 2014 Winter Olympics on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports Live Extra app. The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia will run from February 6-23.
NBC Sports plans to stream over 1,000 hours of Olympics content, double what it did 4 years ago from Vancouver. Streaming will include all 15 sports across 98 different events, plus lots of exclusive content such as interviews, athlete profiles and backstories that have become standard Olympics fare.
Akamai is announcing this morning that it has partnered with Turk Telekom to build and manage an operator content delivery network (OCDN) in Turkey. Turk Telekom will be deploying Akamai's Aura Spectra, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution whereby Akamai dedicates servers for the company's use, which are then maintained by Akamai along with its CDN software.
The explosion of online video viewership is presenting pay-TV operators and broadband ISPs with big challenges and opportunities managing all of the increased traffic across their networks. To help address these, Akamai is introducing new capabilities in its Aura Network Solutions line of operator content delivery network (OCDN) technologies. The goal is to help operators deliver traffic more flexibly and cost effectively while also opening up potential new business models such as TV Everywhere.
This morning Akamai is taking the wraps off Sola Media Solutions, a suite of services aimed at content providers struggling to keep up with the steep challenges posed by the explosion of online video content, rapid device proliferation and changing viewer expectations.
Sola Media Solutions replaces the prior "Akamai HD Network" branding. As Ahmet Ozalp, Akamai's VP, Products, Media Division explained to me, Sola builds on the company's traditional CDN strengths, and also introduces new modular services that address particular online video work flow, storage, security and delivery needs.
Last week at the NABShow, Bill Wheaton, Akamai's SVP and GM of its Media Division stopped by the VideoNuze booth for an interview. Bill sees some of the biggest trends happening in mobile, and cites his experience in India recently as an example of the huge growth in mobile. He also points to growth in video consumed over iOS devices of 200%-300% year-over-year. All of that is leading to massive complexity in supporting multiple devices while emphasizing quality. Bill discusses these challenges and how Akamai is addressing them. See video below (8 minutes, 21 seconds).
Yesterday was one of those days when meaningful broadband video-related news and announcements just kept spilling out. While I was writing up the 5Min-Scripps Networks deal, there was a lot of other stuff happening. Here's what hit my radar, in case you missed any of it:
Adobe launches Flash 10.1 with numerous video enhancements - Adobe kicked off its MAX developer conference with news that Flash 10.1 will be available for virtually all smartphones, in connection with the Open Screen Project initiative, will support HTTP streaming for the first time, and with Flash Professional CS5, will enable developers to build Flash-based apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch. All of this is part of the battle Adobe is waging to maintain Flash's lead position on the desktop and extend it to mobile devices. The HTTP streaming piece means CDNs will be able to leverage their HTTP infrastructure as an alternative to buying Flash Media Server 3.5. Meanwhile Apple is showing no hints yet of supporting Flash streaming on the iPhone, making it the lone smartphone holdout.
Hulu gets Mediavest multi-million dollar buy - Hulu got a shot in the arm as Mediaweek reported that the Publicis agency Mediavest has committed several million dollars from 6 clients to Hulu in an upfront buy. Hulu has been flogged recently by other media executives for its lightweight ad model, so the deal is a well-timed confidence booster, though it is still just a drop in the bucket in overall ad spending.
IAB ad spending research reports mixed results - Speaking of ad spending, the IAB and PriceWaterhouseCoopers released data yesterday showing overall Internet ad spending declined by 5.3% to $10.9B in 1H '09 vs. 1H '08. Some categories were actually up though, and online video advertising turned in a solid performance, up 38% from $345M in 1H '08 to $477M in 1H '09. Though still a small part of the overall pie, online video advertising's resiliency in the face of the recession is a real positive.
Yahoo ups its commitment to original video - Yahoo is one of the players relying on advertising to support its online video initiatives, and so Variety's report that Yahoo may as much as double its proportion of originally-produced video demonstrates how strategic video is becoming for the company. Yahoo has of course been all over the map with video in recent years including the short tenure of Lloyd Braun and then the Maven acquisition, which was closed down in short order. Now though, by focusing on short-form video that augments its core content areas, Yahoo seems to have hit on a winning formula. New CEO Carol Bartz is reported to be a big proponent of video.
AEG Acquires Incited Media, KIT Digital Acquires The FeedRoom and Nunet - AEG, the sports/venue operator, ramped up its production capabilities by creating AEG Digital Media and acquiring webcasting expert Incited Media. Company executives told me late last week that when combined with AEG's venues and live production expertise, the company will be able to offer the most comprehensive event management and broadcasting services. Elsewhere, KIT Digital, the acquisitive digital media technology provider picked up two of its competitors, Nunet, a German company focused on mobile devices, and The FeedRoom, an early player in video publishing/management solutions which has recently been focused on the enterprise. KIT has made a slew of deals recently and it will be interesting to watch how they knit all the pieces together.
Product news around video delivery from VBrick, Limelight and Kaltura - Last but not least, there were 3 noteworthy product announcements yesterday. Enterprise video provider VBrick launched "VEMS" - VBrick Enterprise Media System - a hardware/software system for distributing live and on-demand video throughout the enterprise. VEMS is targeted to companies with highly distributed operations looking to use video as a core part of their internal and external communications practices.
Separate, Limelight unveiled "XD" its updated network platform that emphasizes "Adaptive Intelligence," which I interpret as its implementation of adaptive bit rate (ABR) streaming (see Limelight comment below, my bad) that is becoming increasing popular for optimizing video delivery (Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, Apple, Akamai, Move Networks and others are all active in ABR too). And Kaltura, the open source video delivery company I wrote about here, launched a new offering to support diverse video use cases by educational institutions. Education has vast potential for video, yet I'm not aware of many dedicated services. I expect this will change.
I may have missed other important news; if so please post a comment.
Akamai is announcing its new "Akamai HD Network" this morning, and planning a 1pm webcast to explain the details. Akamai is positioning the network as the first to deliver HD-quality live and on-demand streaming for broadcast-sized audiences. The Akamai HD Network supports Flash, Silverlight and iPhone.
Key to the Akamai HD Network is support for adaptive bit rate ("ABR") streaming, which adjusts the quality of the video delivered based on prevailing network conditions, instant response for pause, rewind, startup, etc, an open standards HD video player and user authentication. Adobe has also optimized Flash to be delivered over Akamai's HTTP network, which appears to be a first. This allows Akamai to fully leverage its 50,000 HTTP edge-server network.
The evolution toward HD-quality delivery has been building steam recently, as content providers increasingly recognize that TV-quality video is becoming the expected norm for online video users. This is particularly true for heavy users who substitute online viewing for TV-viewing, but don't want a degraded experience. As convergence devices, which bridge broadband to the TV in the home take off, the quality bar will rise for all users. This means that all CDNs that want to be players in video delivery will need to be able to deliver HD quality at scale. Move Networks, which I've written about before, is another company playing an important role in enabling high-quality broadband-delivered video to the TV; others will no doubt follow.
More details coming in the webcast today at 1pm ET.
Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of July 27th:
New Pew research confirms online video's growth - Pew was the latest to offer statistics confirming that online video usage continues to soar. Among the noteworthy findings: Long-form consumption is growing as 35% of respondents say they have viewed a TV show or movie online (up from 16% in '07); watching video is widely popular, draw more people (62%) than social networking (46%), downloading a podcast (19%) or using Twitter (11%); usage is up across all age groups, but still skews young with 90% of 18-29 year olds reporting they watch online vs. 27% of 65+ year olds; and convergence is happening with 23% of people who have watched online reporting they have connected their computers to their TVs.
FreeWheel has a very good week - FreeWheel, the syndicated video ad management company I most recently wrote about here, had a very good week. On Monday, AdAge reported that YouTube has begun a test allowing select premium partners to bring their own ads into YouTube, served by FreeWheel. Then on Wednesday, blip.tv announced that it too had integrated with FreeWheel, so ads could be served for blip's producers across their entire syndication network. I caught up with FreeWheel's co-CEO Doug Knopper yesterday who added that more deals, especially with major content producers, are on the way. FreeWheel is riding the syndication wave in a big way.
Plenty of action with CDNs - CDNs were in the news this week, as Vusion (formerly Jittr Networks) bit the dust, after going through $11 million in VC money. Elsewhere CDN Velocix (formerly CacheLogic) was acquired by Alcatel-Lucent. ALU positioned the deal as fitting with its "Application Enablement" strategy, supporting customers' needs in a "video-centric world." Limelight announced its LimelightREACH and LimelightADS services for mobile media delivery and monetization (both are based on Kiptronic, which it acquired recently). Last but not least, bellwether Akamai reported Q2 '09 earnings, that while up 5% vs. year ago, were down sequentially from Q1. Coupled with a cautious Q3 outlook, the company's stock dropped 20%.
IAC is making big moves into online video - IAC is making no bones about its interest in online video. Last week the company unveiled Notional, a spin-out of CollegeHumor.com, to be headed by that site's former editor-in-chief Ricky Van Veen. Then this week it announced another new video venture, with NBCU's former co-entertainment head Ben Silverman. IAC chief Barry Diller seems determined to push the edge of the envelope, as IAC talks up things like multi-platform distribution and brand integration. With convergence and mobile consumption starting to take hold, the timing may finally be right for these sorts of plays. At a minimum IAC will keep things interesting for industry watchers like me.
I'm back in the saddle after an amazing 10 day trip to Israel with my family. On the assumption that I wasn't the only one who's been out of the office around the recent July 4th holiday, I've collected a batch of industry news links below so you can quickly get caught up (caveat, I'm sure I've missed some). Daily publication of VideoNuze begins again today.
I continue to be impressed with the ecosystem of technology companies whose products enable online video to be delivered better, cheaper and faster. Video quality has made incredible strides over the last ten years, evolving from grainy postage stamp-sized experiences to gorgeous HD or near-HD experiences that are becoming more routine. This is causing a powerful "virtuous cycle" to take hold: as users' video experiences improve they watch more video. As they watch more they help fuel more investment in the online video medium.
In particular, CDNs' ability to offer better service even as their delivery rates continue to plummet is based on continuous improvements in their infrastructure. Similarly, content providers' ability to offer higher-quality video is based on improving operational efficiencies and costs in their content management and publishing processes. Two announcements today illustrate both of these dynamics quite well.
First, Blackwave, a Boston-area early-stage provider of video storage and delivery systems that I've been following for a while, is announcing today the R6, its first production system, along with its first major CDN customer, CDNetworks. Last week, Andrew Grant, Blackwave's director of business development and Mike Killian, CTO gave me an update,
Blackwave's focus in on giving CDNs a more powerful, more efficient way of storing and serving high-quality video content. The R6 reduces the CDN's hardware requirements by offering both higher-density and more intelligent storage. One example is that Blackwave continuously gauges the popularity of certain pieces of content. If their popularity increases, more resources are provisioned for higher-availability; if their popularity decreases (as for Long Tail content), they get fewer resources. Among other things, Blackwave is also able to support WMS and Flash streaming, FTP uploading for content ingest and "multi-tenancy" for customer resource sharing.
The net effect of all this is that Blackwave believes it can deliver 10x improvements in both capex (through lower hardware requirements) and opex (through lower power, cooling, data center costs). All of this of course means that CDNs gain more financial flexibility to deliver ever higher quality content from their customers.
Separate, thePlatform (note a VideoNuze sponsor) is announcing today that it is launching mpsManage Ingest, a new streamlined feature for ingesting its customers' content. Marty Roberts, thePlatform's VP of Marketing told me last week that as video quality has increased - thereby causing an explosion of file sizes - the time and effort to ingest them has grown more burdensome and costly. This is particularly true for companies with large or dynamic video libraries.
mpsManage Ingest sets up "Watch Folders" where customers push their content via FTP, a feed reader for thePlatform to subscribe to updates and multi-format ingest adaptors. mpsManage Ingest carries no extra charge, and continues the company's recent efforts to lower the total cost of operating for video content providers (see earlier post on thePlatform's mpsManage Storage and mpsManageCDN offerings).
These are just two examples of how improved technology is enabling higher-quality video. There's plenty more happening; I recently received a briefing from Nokeena, which provides video caching, streaming and delivery intelligence for delivery across screens, a category that includes others like Verivue and EdgeWare, which I haven't spoken to yet. Then there is adaptive bit rate streaming from companies like Move Networks, Adobe and Microsoft, efficient transcoding from companies like Grab Networks, HD Cloud, mPoint and Encoding.com and file transfer and work flow acceleration from companies like Aspera and Signiant.
Adding it all up, the ecosystem of technology helping enable higher-quality, more efficient delivery of online video is impressive and its momentum is growing. Users will continue to benefit from all of these initiatives, as the quality line between conventional delivery and online delivery further blurs.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Below is the 17th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for May 22, 2009.
This week Daisy takes on 2 topics: how book publishers are (finally!) embracing video to promote their authors and titles, and also what NBC's local media division is doing to roll out new web sites to support its ten owned stations. They're adding lots of original content (including from 3rd parties), video, social media features and more community emphasis. No surprise syndication is a real push. Local stations have been really hammered by the recession and also by the shift to broadband distribution, so it's good to see NBC being aggressive.
Separate but related NBC.com is my focus on this week's podcast. Specifically, I add more detail to my post this week about how NBC.com is leveraging its existing online/broadband infrastructure to support its mobile video efforts by using Kiptronic, a mobile video ad insertion company.
Coincidentally, Kiptronic was just acquired by Limelight, further validating that mobile video is a rising priority for many video providers. I've been digging into mobile video and though it's still well behind the broadband adoption curve, the iPhone and other video-ready mobile devices are creating a lot of momentum. (Recall that mobile video taking off was one of my 5 predictions for '09)
For those of you celebrating the long Memorial Day weekend, and the official start of summer, enjoy! I'll see you on Tuesday.
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