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Mobile Video is Devouring the Internet

In late 2009 – fully two years after the introduction of the extraordinary Apple iPhone – mobile was barely discernible on any measurement of total Internet traffic. By late 2016, it finally exceeded desktop traffic volume. In a terrifyingly short period of time, mobile Internet consumption moved from an also-ran to a behemoth, leaving behind the husks of marketing recommendations to “move to Web 2.0” and to “design for Mobile First”. And along the way, Apple encouraged us to buy into the concept that the future (of TV at least) is apps.

Unsurprisingly, the key driver of all this traffic is – as it always is – video. One in every three mobile device owners watches videos of at least 5 minutes’ duration, which is generally considered the point at which the user has moved from short-form, likely user-generated, content, to premium video (think: TV shows and movies). And once viewers pass the 5minute mark, it’s a tiny step to full-length, studio-developed content, which is a crazy bandwidth hog.  Consider that video is expected to represent fully 75% of all mobile traffic by 2020 – when it was just 55% in 2015.


As consumers get more interested in video, producers aren’t slowing down. By 2020, it is estimated that it would take an individual fully 5 million years to watch the video being published and made available in just a month. And while consumer demand varies around the world – 72% of Thailand’s mobile traffic is video, for instance, versus just 41% in the United States – the reality is that, without some help, the mobile Web is going to be straining under the weight of near-unlimited video consumption.

What we know is that, hungry as they are for content, streaming video consumers are fickle and impatient. Akamai demonstrated years ago the 2-second rule: if a requested piece of content isn’t available in under 2 seconds, Internet users simply move on to the next thing. And numerous studies have shown definitively that when re-buffering (the dreaded pause in playback while the viewing device downloads the next section of the video) exceeds just 1% of viewing time, audience engagement collapses, resulting in dwindling opportunities to monetize content that was expensive to acquire, and can be equally costly to deliver.

How big of a problem is network congestion? It’s true that big, public, embarrassing outages across CDNs or ISPs are now quite rare. However, when we studied the network patterns of one of our customers, we found that what we call micro-outages (outages lasting 5 minutes or less) happen literally hundreds to thousands of times a day. That single customer was looking at some 600,000 minutes of direct lost viewing time per month – and when you consider how long each customer might have stayed, and their decreased inclination to return in the future, that number likely translates to several million minutes of indirectly lost minutes.

While mobile viewers are more likely to watch their content through an app (48% of all mobile Internet users) than a browser (18%), they still receive the content through the chaotic maelstrom of a network that is the Internet. As such, providers have to work out the best pathways to use to get the content there, and to ensure that the stream will have consistency over time so that it doesn’t fall prey to the buffering bug.

Most providers use stats and analysis to work out the right pathways – so they can look at how various CDN/ISP combos are working, and pick the one that is delivering the best experience. Strikingly, though, they often have to make routing decisions for audience members who are in geographical locations that aren’t currently in play, which means choosing a pathway without any recent input on which is going to be the best pathway – this is literally gambling with the experience of each viewer. What is needed is something predictive: something that will help the provider to know the right pathway the first time they have to choose.

This is where the Radar Community comes in: by monitoring, tracking, and analyzing the activity of billions of Internet interactions every day, the community knows which pathways are at peak health, and which need a bit of a breather before getting back to full speed. So, when using Openmix to intelligently route traffic, the Radar community data provides the confidence that every decision is based on real-time, real-user data – even when, for a given provider, they are delivering to a location that has been sitting dormant.

Mobile video is devouring the Web, and will continue to do so, as consumers prefer their content to move, dance, and sing. Predictively re-routing traffic in real-time so that it circumvents the thousands of micro-outages that plague the Internet every day means never gambling with the experience of users, staying ahead of the challenges that congestion can bring, and building the sustainable businesses that will dominate the new world of streaming video.

Fixing The Real OTT Challenge: Monetization

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HBO remains a jewel in the crown of Time Warner, while also being a bit of a problem. One of the issues is the slowdown in growth of HBO Direct: it has rather publicly been at give-or-take-a-million since shortly after its launch, and stubbornly refuses to keep moving. There are a million reasons for this (not least of which is that the hundred million or so cable and satellite subscribers can simply buy it for the TV then use HBO Go on the move), but it’s illustrative of what will likely be the number one issue of 2017 for streaming video: monetization. And when we say monetization, we don’t just mean attracting revenue – we mean doing so profitably

You can logically start at the top: what’s the story on Netflix? The last quarter reported (Q3 2016) shows revenue of $2.3B, net income of $51M, and a negative cash flow of $461M. Now let’s not beat them up – they have a solid record of being mildly profitable (the number above imply a 2.2% net profit) – and there are signs that 2017 could very much be the year they start printing money. The thing is, though – Netflix is the 800lb gorilla in the space, consuming over a third of the total Internet bandwidth during peak hours. If they are not cash flow positive (with, it has to be said, some high expectations for Q4 numbers), what is everyone else to do?

We see plenty of news about how many subscribers have, or have not, signed up for a service – but that is only one side of the balance sheet. Profit, after all, is made up of what is left after all the outgoing bills have been paid with the incoming revenue. So while subscriber growth is essential to ramping up the revenue side, there is a corresponding need to focus on the cost side of the ledger. There are a number of real challenges here:

  • The cost of content. Our friends over at StreamingMedia have an important piece about the cost of content, noting that even regular Pay TV companies can end up losing money on particularly expensive content. The simple reality is that, with so many renegade start-ups, the price for good content is being bid up to the point where it is hard, if not impossible to make money. Netflix has content obligations into the future valued at $13B (heck, Westworld cost a reported $100M).
  • The inconsistency of the market. Think about it: Netflix, with its whole library, comes in at $8 to $12 a month; HBO Direct costs $15. The smallest package from SlingTV can be had for a cool $20, where PlayStation Vue weighs in at $40 – and offers lots of options to build up an account whose price can rival any cable bill. Acorn TV, which offers British content is $5 a month, which makes it kind of expensive next to Netflix, but kind of cheap next to HBO. Consumers have no real way to compare and contrast models, which makes the economics of the market chaotic, complex, and confusing.
  • The dizzying delivery system. Getting video from origin to consumer is as complex an endeavor as the human race has ever chosen to undertake. One of the key enablers has been the CDNs, who distribute points of presence (POPs, also known as edges) around the world in an effort to bring content closer to consumers. CDNs, though, charge for each byte of information that flows through them, meaning that each new consumer creates new cost.

Content costs will, eventually, stabilize, as supply and demand meet, and the amount of investment money for start-ups slows a little and returns to a level at which content can be provided profitably. Similarly, market forces will eventually create an equilibrium, as consumers signal through their actions the acceptable cost for services. Each of these two elements, however, rely upon market activity that can be only partially impacted by any individual organization.

By contrast, the cost of delivery can be managed by any organization, by rationalizing the way in which traffic is assigned to delivery partners. Organizations around the world are even now building out Hybrid CDN architectures, in which some combination of CDNs and private clouds are used to route traffic across pathways that can deliver content at high quality, but at the lowest total cost. For instance, consumers in close proximity to the origin may be served by internally-managed caching servers; those in geographically-dispersed, but relatively high consumer concentration, areas may be served by servers controlled within a private cloud; and others in further-flung regions may be served by locally-focused CDNs. Using intelligent algorithms to ensure quality of experience (QoE) meets expectations, while selecting for the cheapest route that can do it, can drive overall delivery costs down by economically-meaningful levels.

Ultimately, profitability in the streaming video space will be determined by the ability of service providers to attract and retain audiences, and their ability to control whatever costs they can. Starting with delivery costs makes the most sense, as it can be undertaken today, and without the cooperation of other market participants.

Want to know more about monetization trends in the OTT space? Join us at Digital Entertainment World on February 1 and 2 and visit us at our booth. And don’t miss our VP of Marketing, Rob Malnati, as he discusses this very topic with other experts from companies like OWNZONES, Pluto.tv, ITV Alliance, and Plex at 3:30pm on February 1st.

Much Like The Rain Across America, Video Is Streaming Everywhere!

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For those outside the US – and not addicted to your weather feeds – you may feel a certain schadenfreude to know that in the first week of 2017 fully 49 out of 50 states had snow. And that California is, even now, being drenched by something called an ‘atmospheric river’, which, based on the pictures you can dig up almost anywhere, is exactly what it sounds like.

Thank goodness for streaming, or Over the Top (OTT), video, then, which entertains all of us as we huddle inside waiting for Spring to appear.

And yet, perhaps they’re under attack in ways we’ve not noticed. According to CIO, sales taxes on streaming services are on their way (who knew Philadephia already charged one?). On the other hand, is it that surprising? Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime killed off the neighborhood Blockbuster, and that tax revenue has to be replaced by something – and given the speed at which streaming is increasing (22.6% increase in subscription revenue in 2016), that’s a tempting little nest egg for any self-respecting taxman. In fact, for the first time in 2016, streaming revenues exceeded revenues for physical media like DVDs.

One of the biggest stories for 2017 is likely to be the growth (or otherwise) of Internet-only streaming TV services. Kicked off by Dish with Sling TV, and by Sony with PlayStation Vue, we’re going to be keeping an eye on AT&T’s DirecTV Now, which is apparently keeping its low price of $35 for the time being. Nobody in the industry is really willing to place a bet on where this will go (HBO Go seems to be stuck at a million subscribers, which is nothing to sniff at, but growth is proving tricky) – but if it proves popular, all bets are off as to how future investments will be made on proprietary versus Internet delivery.

The biggest challenge for these new (and newly taxable!) services, of course, will really kick in when they become as ubiquitous as today’s rather more popular cable or satellite subscription. Because TV providers – whether the company that brings signal to your house, or the one that creates the channels you like to watch – are surprisingly robust. Ask yourself when the last time was that your favorite channel just plain stopped playing; or when your cable service stopped working (and no, you can’t count that time the electricity went out because you were undergoing an atmospheric river).

Now ask yourself how those streaming services are doing.  Pop over to the Cedexis CDN and Cloud Performance reports, then see how CDNs are doing – you’ll notice that, while you can get close to 99.9% availability by combining a handful of them and hooking them together with Openmix, it’s near-impossible for any single provider to reach 99%. Why? Because there are so many more moving parts in the Internet than there are in a closed, proprietary cable network. The fantastic news is that we can clearly see here that, working together, CDNs can put together the sort of results that are going to be necessary in order to make streaming a credible challenger to the status quo.

And perhaps that’s the news of the month: working together. At Cedexis, we’re working with clients all around the world to create the ideal delivery networks, from fortifying their origins, to implementing Varnish caching servers, to structuring robust Multi-CDN architectures – then applying real user measurements (RUM) and advanced global traffic management algorithms to make sure that consumers get a great experience. If there’s two things we’ll need to see this year to turbo-charge growth in the OTT space, they are (1) collaboration; to bring about (2) broadcast-quality online despite the Internet’s notoriously chaotic weather patterns.

Have questions about delivering broadcast-quality video online? Don’t miss our webinar, with Level 3, this Thursday, January 12th, at 3pm GMT, and 11am PST

StreamingMedia Names Cedexis a “Top 100 Online Video Company”

We are super proud to share that StreamingMedia has, for the 3rd year in a row, selected Cedexis as one of the “100 companies that matter most in online video in 2016”!

The Cedexis Buffer Killer solution has had quite a year, winning the Innovation Aware at ICT in Singapore, and we believe it has contributed greatly to the rapid adoption of multi-CDN and hybrid-CDN & cloud solutions in the online video marketplace.

You can see the complete list of all 100 winners here.  We are in great company on this list.  It is amazing how many innovative companies are working on delivering “TV quality video” to the range of Internet connected video devices consumers demand today.

StreamingMedia Names Cedexis a "Top 100 Online Video Company"

We are super proud to share that StreamingMedia has, for the 3rd year in a row, selected Cedexis as one of the “100 companies that matter most in online video in 2016”!

The Cedexis Buffer Killer solution has had quite a year, winning the Innovation Aware at ICT in Singapore, and we believe it has contributed greatly to the rapid adoption of multi-CDN and hybrid-CDN & cloud solutions in the online video marketplace.

You can see the complete list of all 100 winners here.  We are in great company on this list.  It is amazing how many innovative companies are working on delivering “TV quality video” to the range of Internet connected video devices consumers demand today.

IBC 2016: the future of online video is at Amsterdam

Starting this Friday, thousands of video professionals will gather in Amsterdam for five days to talk about the future of video. Recording, hardware, delivery… and online video. If there is one trend to keep in mind year after year, it is the domination of online delivery strategies, as well as the proliferation of video in global Internet traffic.

IBC

Video QoS Metrics Premiere

As in previous years, Cedexis will be in Hall 14, dedicated to the future of online video. Cedexis will be showcasing the new abilities of its solution to monitor IP networks QoS for video:

Cedexis Buffer Killer.  We introduced this during IBC last year, and it has only gotten better. We will demonstrate the need for a new type of data, Video QoS Metrics, in your multi-CDN and multi-Cloud load-balancing strategies. Those new metrics dedicated to video QoS are:

  • Bitrate: the amount of data delivered to the end user per chunk (kbps)
  • Re-buffering ratio: the percentage of time spent waiting because of re-buffering (seconds)
  • Video Start Failures: the number of attempts to launch the video that have generated a failure (count)
  • Video Start Time: time spent before the video starts (milliseconds)
  • Response Time: response time calculated per chunk (milliseconds)
  • Throughput: observed throughput per chunk (kbps)

Those data are in line with HMTL5’s breakthrough for online video. Stop by view a demo at the Cedexis booth: Hall 14, Stand G17. Our partner Elemental Technologies will also display demos at its booth: Hall 5, Stand C80. Please feel free to contact us directly to set up a meeting at IBC, or visit us at the booth.

Focus on Video: The Evidence for how Cedexis improves your online video performance.

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.
― David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

We love evidence here at Cedexis. We have long known that Cedexis Openmix improves online video. Many of our oldest customers use Cedexis for Video and have reported excellent results over the years. However, this has been anecdotal and lacking rigorous scrutiny. Recently, we completed 2 very thorough audits for 2 separate clients where we proved that using Cedexis has very tangible results for Video Quality of Service. We would like to share some of that data here today.

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In the above, you can see where Cedexis latency-based load balancing created over 50% improvement in buffering. Video Start time improved by almost 20%, and shockingly Video Start Failures were reduced by 65%! We touched on these results in a previous blog, but to see the hard numbers is really exciting to our science-minded folks here at Cedexis.

Taking a closer look (and using a different data set), lets ask the question:

How can we evaluate different strategies for load balancing Video?

It turns out we have a really smart guy here named Jason who was able to put his lab coat on and create a scientific experiment. Here is how it went: we evaluated 5 different algorithms for load balancing video traffic.

  • NoCDX: No Cedexis application deployed (we use this for a reference period).
  • CDXRTT: Decision is based on the best roundtrip time (latency) of the CDN platforms with
    those CDN’s that are to be evaluated having to meet a minimum of 80% availability.
  • CDXThru: Decision is based on the best throughput of the CDN platforms with those
    CDN’s that are to be evaluated having to meet a minimum of 80% availability.
  • CDXThru Sticky: Based on CDXThru. Sticky is a more conservative level of switching,
    only switching when a minimum “jump” (400Kbps) in throughput can be achieved. In addition regional “Availability” thresholds are implemented.
  • CDXThru Sticky Avail Global Set80: Similar to the above but with a lower (200Kbps) “Bandwidth” threshold being utilized and a Globally set availability score at 80%.
  • CDXThru Sticky Avail Focused Set: again similar to 4 with a raised throughput bandwidth threshold of 400Kbps and specific availability scores for different regions ( Global 80, UK and US 90 and Middle east 85).

What Jason found was very interesting.

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First Note – in every case, using Cedexis to multi-home your video improved the (Re)buffering ratio, the Video Start Time and the Average Bit Rate consumed. Across the board improvement in every category. After that it gets very interesting. While lowest latency had the biggest impact on Video Start Time and (Re)buffering ratio, throughput measurements seemed to have a bigger influence on Average Bit-Rate Consumed. The RTT (or Latency) based algorithm made a very significant improvement in Average Bit-Rate consumed – even though it was not the best algorithm in the category.

We continue to test and refine these results, and our clients get to take advantage of our findings. If your site has video and you are not currently multi-homed on different CDNs, we urge you to do so. As the data clearly shows, video performance will improve. If you ARE multi-homed and using Cedexis for your video delivery, call today to see if some of these modest proposals might improve your performance. For more on how Cedexis can help with your video use case, check out our Video Solution Brief.

I’ll leave you with another quote from my favorite English philosopher.

It is not what the man of science believes that distinguishes him, but how and why he believes it. His beliefs are tentative, not dogmatic; they are based on evidence, not on authority or intuition.
― Bertrand Russell