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Analysis for 'Level 3'

  • 5 Items of Interest for the Week of Jan. 10th

    Even though I was very focused this week on the CES "takeaways" series, there was still plenty of news happening in the online and mobile video industries. So as in the past, I'm pleased to offer VideoNuze's end-of-week feature highlighting 5-6 interesting online/mobile video industry news items that we weren't able to cover this week. Enjoy!

    Level 3 fights on in Comcast traffic dispute
    Level 3 is showing no signs of relenting on its accusations that Comcast is unfairly trying to charge the CDN for Internet traffic it delivers to Comcast's network. In an interview this week, Level 3 said it may use the "Open Internet" provisions of the FCC's new network neutrality rules to press its case. Level 3's challenge is coming at the 11th hour of the FCC's approval process of the Comcast-NBCU deal; it's not really clear if Level 3 is having any impact on slowing the approval, which appears imminent.

    Comcast-NBCU deal challenged over online video proposal
    Speaking of challenges to the Comcast-NBCU deal, word emerged this week that Disney is voicing concern over the FCC's proposed deal condition that would force Comcast to offer NBC programming to any party that had concluded a deal with one of NBC's competitors for online distribution. The Disney concern appears to be that the condition would have an undue influence on how the online video market evolves and how Disney's own deals would be impacted. While the FCC should be setting conditions to the deal, the Disney concerns highlights how, in a nascent, fast-moving market like online video, government intervention can cause unintended side effects.

    YouTube is notching 200 million mobile video views/day
    As if on cue with my CES takeaway #3, that mobility is video's next frontier, YouTube revealed this week that it is now delivering 200 million mobile views per day, tripling its volume in 2010. That would equal about 6 billion views per month, which is remarkable. And that amount is poised to increase, as YouTube launched music video site VEVO for Android devices. YouTube clearly sees the revenue potential in all this mobile video activity; it also said that it would append a pre-roll ad in Android views for tens of thousands of content partners.

    Google creates video codec dust-up
    Google stirred up a hornet's nest this week by announcing that it was dropping support for the widely popular H.264 video codec in its Chrome browser, in favor of its own WebM codec, in an attempt to drive open standards. Though Chrome only represents about 10% market share among browsers (doubling in 2010 though), for these users, it means they'll need to use Flash to view non-WebM ended video. There are a lot of downstream implications of Google's move, but for space reasons, rather than enumerating them here, check out some of the great in-depth coverage the issue has received this week (here, here, here, here).

    Netflix usage drives up Canadian broadband bills
    An interesting test of Canadian Netflix streaming showed that a user there might have to pay an incremental $12/month under one ISP's consumption cap. That would be more than the $7.99/mo that the Netflix subscription itself costs, leading to potential cord-shaving behavior. This type of upcharge hasn't become an issue here in the U.S. because even ISPs that have caps have set them high relative to most users' current consumption. But if streaming skyrockets as many think it will, and the FCC allows usage-based billing, this could fast become a reality in the U.S. as well.

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  • 5 Items of Interest for the Week of Nov. 29th

    Following the Thanksgiving break last Friday, VideoNuze's end-of-week feature of curating 5-6 interesting online/mobile video industry news items that we weren't able to cover this week, is back. Read them now or take them with you this weekend!

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  • Level 3 Tries to Wrap Itself in the Cloak of Net Neutrality in Comcast Dispute

    The phrase, "there's no such thing as a free lunch" is getting a new application this morning, as Netflix's massively popular streaming service and over-the-top online video delivery in general face their first big reality check in the form of the Level 3-Comcast traffic fee dispute.

    In case you aren't fully up to speed yet, yesterday Level 3 issued a press release asserting that Comcast was forcing Level 3 to pay it higher rates in order for its traffic to be passed through to Comcast's network, and by extension its subscribers. On this basis alone, this would be a snoozer dispute; few of us are aware of or care about the behind the scenes Internet plumbing that enables the delivery of online content. And as long as it doesn't affect what we pay, we also generally don't care which provider gets paid what or how much.

    That's why Level 3 cleverly decided not to depict this as a commercial dispute, but rather as a violation by Comcast of "net neutrality" regulations. To drive its point home further, it chose to use highly-charged language, accusing Comcast of "putting up a toll booth," "enabling it to unilaterally decide," "threatens the open Internet" and "preventing competing content" among other things. These are exactly the kinds of terms that net neutrality advocates have been using for years to justify new, stricter net neutrality regulations and Level 3's choice of words is a blatant play to transform this into a net neutrality spark.  Trying to set the record straight, Comcast replied that in fact this is a commercial dispute, centered around an imbalance of traffic being exchanged (5:1 by its estimate), and that by convention a separate payment from Level 3 is warranted.

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  • VideoNuze Report Podcast #57 - April 16, 2010

    Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 57th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for April 16, 2010.

    Daisy and I are back from the NAB Show in Las Vegas and this week we share 2-3 key takeaways. For her part Daisy was impressed by the energy and mood at the show which was significantly brighter than last year. Daisy heard from a number of people contemplating new ventures, a big departure from last year when most people were hunkered down. Daisy shared further insights about specific companies she interviewed.

    Then I talk a little more about my reactions to the Level 3 - Silverlight 3D streaming demo I saw in Microsoft's booth, which I wrote about on Tuesday, and also the new local TV station JV for mobile DTV that was unveiled at the show and which I wrote about yesterday.

    Click here to listen to the podcast (14 minutes, 0 seconds)

    Click here for previous podcasts

    The VideoNuze Report is available in iTunes...subscribe today!
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  • Video Quality Keeps Improving - What's it All Mean?

    Is it just me, or are you also noticing that the quality of your online video experience is getting consistently better and better? Even though I'm totally immersed in the space, periodically I will find myself watching something online and still think to myself, "This quality is just unreal!"

    I've had the experience of watching some or all of the following recently: the Democratic convention on demconvention.com, the movie "Ordinary People" on Hulu, swimming on NBCOlympics.com, trailers on Fancast and "Eli Stone" on ABC.com, among others. In each case, the quality of the video is outstanding, even in full screen mode.

    All of this is due to tremendous innovation in the content delivery world. This includes not only traditional CDNs such as Akamai, Limelight, Level 3, CDNetworks and others, but a raft of other players specifically focused on optimizing video delivery quality such as Move Networks, Swarmcast, Digital Fountain, Vusion, BitGravity and others. Further enhancing the experience are improvements in media players like Windows Media, Flash, QuickTime and more recently Silverlight.

    The innovation and investment in this space shows no signs of abating. I was reminded of this just last week in a call with Perry Wu, CEO and co-founder of BitGravity, which yesterday announced a strategic relationship and investment from Tata Communications (part of Tata Group, the massive Indian conglomerate).

    Perry explained that the underlying theme of the deal is to deliver video at consistently high quality on a global basis. That aspiration fits with the increasingly international-oriented distribution strategies I hear about from content providers. While fast-growing international markets have been core growth drivers for content companies, frictionless and cost-effective IP delivery is creating a whole new ball game. I expect international reach - and the ability to monetize with locally-appropriate advertising - to become more and more important.

    Meanwhile, back in the U.S. surging video quality means the bar is getting higher for all video providers. Delivering video without a full-screen option, or where the audio and video aren't synched perfectly, or where rewind/instant play isn't available will soon be perceived as sub-par. For budget-minded broadband content startups this will require heavier investments in delivery services if they're to be taken seriously.

    For traditional networks and the Hollywood community, higher quality broadband delivery means the shift from on-air to online consumption will only accelerate. As more consumers come to see broadband as a legitimate alternative, they'll continue modifying their behaviors. With these shifting eyeballs comes a slew of economic challenges (the "analog dollars to digital pennies" anxiety) that must be urgently addressed.

    Lastly, for the owners of local broadband networks (cable operators, telcos, etc.) surging video quality increases the pressure on their networks' delivery capacity. When a handful of users are watching high-quality long-form video that's one thing. But what happens when it's the norm? Bandwidth management and net neutrality debates are sure to intensify.

    While all of these uncertainties swirl, consumers are gleefully seeing a high-quality video Internet unfold that just a few years ago would have seemed unimaginable.

    What do you think? Post a comment.

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