It goes without saying that the quality of any consumer experience will directly affect the satisfaction derived from it. Video is no different; as has been shown in numerous studies over the years, whenever the streaming quality is diminished, so too is the viewer’s satisfaction.
But new research from Akamai, conducted by Sensum, which used advanced biometric measurement methods, has revealed the extent to which lower quality streaming impacts viewers’ experiences and perhaps more importantly, what the business consequences of this are. Admittedly, the research is a bit geeky, but it’s also quite eye-opening and valuable for anyone building video products and services.
Akamai has launched Akamai Media Acceleration, a new content delivery technology which boosts the quality of over-the-top video, as well speeds up video game and software downloads. In a briefing, Alex Balford, senior product marketing manager, media, told me that Media Acceleration was developed in order for Akamai customers to deliver broadcast TV quality OTT experiences to viewers, whose expectations continue to rise.
Alex said that Media Acceleration addresses the last mile connection from the edge of Akamai’s own network to the viewer’s device. It uses an emerging technology standard called “Quick UDP Internet Connections” or “QUIC,” to detect and overcome congestion or latency, including in the viewer’s in-home WiFi network.
Akamai’s network investments are paying off as the company keeps delivering ever-greater levels of concurrent live sports streams. The latest example occurred with last weekend's Euro 2016 Portugal-France championship match where Akamai delivered a peak of 7.3 Tbps during overtime. That level beat the 2014 Argentina-Netherlands World Cup final which achieved a 7.0 Tbps peak.
Akamai said that over 3.3 million concurrent streams were delivered at peak across 35 rights-holders globally. Akamai’s VP, Product Management Corey Halverson told me in a briefing that a number of network investments in quality and reliability have been instrumental in supporting the record streaming activity.
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!
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 :-)
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.