When Netflix wanted to take more control of its OTT distribution, the company introduced the Netflix Open Connect initiative, partnering with Internet Service Providers to deploy devices in their networks that could cache content nearer to end-users and so improve the Quality of Experience for streaming video. Joachim Roos, CEO and Founder at Edgeware, thinks major broadcasters should take a similarly proactive approach to online distribution.
His company provides operator CDN solutions for network owners and he now advocates a kind of broadcaster CDN model, shifting content out of third-party content delivery networks and into a more defined, end-to-end delivery infrastructure. “It allows them to take control over unmanaged video delivery,” he declares. ISPs can also benefit because, by eliminating bottlenecks created by highly popular video services, they can improve QoE for their remaining traffic.
The first Edgeware customer to go down this road is TVB in Hong Kong, the free-to-air broadcaster and content producer that is also a leading provider of Internet video in the territory. TVB’s digital media business unit TVB.COM is using a CDN caching and distribution solution from Edgeware to increase video quality, and therefore customer satisfaction, for its various online services including its website and the ‘myTV’ multiscreen service, which offers live streaming and catch-up TV.
Roos says Edgeware has two more broadcaster customers who already use its origin servers and who are looking to introduce their own edge-caching capability, one of them in Europe and the other in South America.
Peter Löfling, Asia Pacific Sales Director at Edgeware, says of TVB.COM: “They understood the need to guarantee the end user experience. If an Internet video service disruption occurs, it is rarely the CDN provider who is blamed; the viewer only experiences the disruption from the content provider. This is why we are seeing the beginning of a trend towards broadcasters building their own CDNs to take full control over their most valuable asset: their content.”
Joachim Roos views this as a solution for broadcasters who primarily distribute content into one region, which is typical for most of the majors serving their national market. As consumers are becoming increasingly demanding about Internet video quality, broadcasters should take control of business-critical functions such as encryption, network storage, format re-packaging, content distribution and playout, Edgeware believes.
These functions, along with recording, are integrated into the Edgeware Video Consolidation Platform (VCP), which provides the economic basis for broadcasters to originate and serve their own OTT services. VCP encompasses the VCP Origin servers, said to significantly reduce origin complexity, performance requirements and cost, and the VCP Edge – the optimized CDN caching and distribution solution. Edgeware says the system scales easily in both the headend and within broadband service provider networks.
The company claims that using the Edgeware VCP solution also gives content owners better visibility of services, with advanced monitoring and the aggregated data needed to optimize network, marketing and business decisions. Roos says the return-on-investment justification is straightforward and is founded upon better service quality for users and greater viewer satisfaction. He thinks broadcasters should at least take control of their origin functions. After that it is an incremental step to add the CDN capabilities.
Roos points to TVB.COM as an illustration of a broadcaster taking control of its destiny by building its own CDN. The company was delivering its TV services to the ISPs in Hong Kong via peering at the Hong Kong Internet Exchange (HKIX) using multiple 10G links but these were becoming overloaded. The media company was charged a flat rate for delivery from their caches up to a certain volume, then higher costs for ‘bursting’ above this. By deploying its own edge caches in the ISP networks, TVB.com reduced the load on their HKIX links and therefore the charges. They also improved QoE by removing a major bottleneck.
Edgeware says the ISPs benefitted because they offloaded their own links into HKIX and they were able to improved QoE for all their remaining traffic by removing the TVB.COM created bottleneck. “One ISP was able to reduce over 20Gbps of peak traffic,” Edgeware reports.
Kenneth Wong, COO at TVB.COM, says: “Our customers expect nothing less than the highest quality, regardless of the device on which they access the content.” The owned infrastructure now means TVB.COM will soon introduce more live channels, higher video quality and a larger video repository.
Joachim Roos adds: “You might assume that in a small geographic territory you would not have to worry about the quality of services [achieved over the Internet] but that is not the case.”
In the traditional linear broadcast business the trend has been for broadcasters to focus more on their core strengths as content producers and programming curators and less on infrastructure and technology. So does it require a change of philosophy to try to take control of OTT distribution? Roos thinks not, saying it is just a technical decision about how you gain more viewers.
“I do not see it as a big philosophical question, about whether you go back to doing infrastructure again, like in the past. It is a new game with a new set of rules to master the Internet.” He adds: “Broadcasters are reassessing their value proposition.”
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