Skytide Blog

What is the true cost of a 404 error?

June 12th, 2013

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Video caching as a customer acquisition tool

June 6th, 2013

Sometimes embarrassment can be a powerful motivator for change.

Conversely, so can the stature and prestige that comes from a high ranking.

Looks like both were in play in motivating Cablevision to join the Netflix Open Connect CDN according to this post by FierceCable.  The back history looks something like this:

  • Cable operators like Cablevision are not particularly fond of Netflix, since it siphons off potential pay-per-view customers and sucks up a lot of bandwidth.
  • Cablevision is not particularly fond of fellow cable provider Verizon either, which it counts as its biggest enemy. 
  • In 2011, the FCC released its first Measuring Broadband America report and Cablevision fared poorly; it delivered advertised Internet download speeds just 59% of the time during peak hours, while Verizon delivered more than 100 percent of its advertised speeds.  Not surprisingly, Verizon jumped on this and hammered it home in a series of ad campaigns.
  • Then Netflix poured fuel on the flame when it began publishing its ISP Speed Index, which also reported that Verizon FiOS delivered faster speeds than Cablevision. 
  • Pushed into a corner, Cablevision chose to join Netflix’s Open Connect CDN in an effort to improve its speeds and its paid off  handsomely. Cablevision now ranks #2 among all cable providers — 3 spots higher than Verizon — and is rolling out consumer marketing that touts the difference.

The learnings from all this?

  • The Netflix ISP Speed Index is working like a charm.  
  • Video caching can be used for strategic advantage to deliver better QoE and improve perceived performance in the eyes of prospective customers.  It will be interesting to see if other service providers follow suit. 

Just when you thought online video couldn’t grow any faster…

May 30th, 2013

Two of the most highly regarded prognosticators of all things Internet-related both weighed in yesterday. The executive summary — all signs continue to bode exceedingly well for online video.

  • Cisco published its Visual Networking Index and the numbers are jaw dropping. Consider these predictions for 2017:
    • Online video will represent 69% of consumer internet traffic.
    • Mobile video is really poised to explode, fueled by the seemingly insatiable global consumer appetite for connected devices like smartphones and tablets. Cisco forecasts that mobile video will account for 66% of all mobile data traffic. For perspective, that would be a 16 fold increase from 2012.
    • Internet content streamed to TVs will hit a mind boggling 6.5 exabytes per month. 6.5 exabytes per month!

If these numbers actually pan out, it will require massive infrastructure investments and turn up the heat on network service providers to establish new revenue streams to offset these expenditures.

  • Analyst, Mary Meeker also published her oft quoted State of the Web presentation.
    • Particularly interesting to us was her mention of the rise of short-form video, driven by the likes of Vine and Dropcam. Just check out Vine’s surge in active users since the beginning of the year. It will probably surpass your expectations; it definitely exceeded ours.
    • Even so, Skytide is still predicting that the market will also see a surge in long-form video too, as more movies and TV programming are delivered over IP. Check out our 6 Online Video Trends for 2013 report for more insight on the subject.

Fissures forming in Cable TV’s foundation

May 22nd, 2013

Cord cutting is poised to put the traditional Pay TV industry in a world of hurt. Or not. Depends on your source.

To date, it’s been difficult to get an accurate read; traditional operators have claimed that over-the-top (OTT) video has had little or no impact on their businesses, while those in the OTT ecosystem have argued otherwise.

A new report from Leichtman Research would seem to indicate that there are indeed some cracks in the Cable TV foundation, and its leaked customers to the tune of 1.5 million subscribers in the past year alone.  While OTT is not the sole source for this subscriber churn, it is undeniably a leading contributor.

In the end, it may be Telcos and ISPs that ultimately create the greatest cracks in the cable empire. Those that roll out their own wholesale CDN services have an opportunity to actually profit from OTT traffic and provide a viable alternative to cable.  Read Skytide’s whitepaper to learn more.





A look inside the black box of CDN pricing

May 9th, 2013

By design, CDN pricing is opaque and a bit of a black box.

After all, no CDN provider wants to tip its hand and furnish a competitor with pricing information that can be used against them.

The result of all this stealth is an industry where its difficult to gauge the price points for video delivery services. Which is why Frost & Sullivan analyst, Dan Rayburn’s annual presentation on the state of CDN pricing and deal size at the upcoming Content Delivery Summit is so welcome.

I’m especially interested to see how current industry pricing versus the findings from his 2012 CDN pricing presentation here.


Time Warner Extends TV Everywhere Reach

April 17th, 2013

A few years back, it started to become evident that some seismic shifts were about to transform the way that video content was delivered and consumed. One, that MSOs needed to roll out TV Everywhere initiatives and two, that multi-screen viewing would soon become the norm.

Further evidence that this playing out according to script: today, Time Warner announced that it is adding live out-of-home programming to its TWC TV application, enabling its customers to watch shows on Apple mobile devices like iPhones and iPads.

This TV Everywhere strategy is necessary by the cable companies as a way to deliver programming where, when and how their customers want to consume it and thwart potential cord cutting.

With MSOs like Time Warner pushing video content beyond the TV set to connected devices and telecom companies moving in the other direction — pushing online video content to TV — the landscape can be confusing. Read our presentation below to quickly understand the differences between TV Everywhere and IPTV (and OTT).

How YouTube is bringing adaptive streaming to mobile and TVs

March 13th, 2013

In our 6 Online Video Trends for 2013 report, we predicted that the adoption of adaptive bitrate streaming (ABR) would continue to escalate this year.

News out of Google would seem to confirm our forecast.  A post on GigaOm — How YouTube is bringing adaptive streaming to mobile and TVs — details how Google is doubling down on adaptive streaming technology, expanding beyond the desktop to mobile devices and TVs. This is great news for everybody.

  • Video viewers benefit from faster start times and a continued, uninterrupted experience.  Their mobile data plans also don’t get dinged for long load times and buffering; only for time watched.  
  • Content publishers also benefit.  They currently pay CDNs to deliver video that is never consumed.  For instance, content that is partially delivered via progressive download and abandoned before the download is complete.  That problem is largely eliminated with adaptive bitrate streaming.
  • Mobile broadband providers benefit by leveraging adaptive streaming to reduce network congestion.

Perhaps the only people not cheering this news are the people that have to measure video content delivered by adaptive streaming.  Read our presentation below to understand why ABR is so difficult to measure.

Using Online Video Analytics for Precise Capacity Planning

March 1st, 2013

With consumption rates for online video growing at unprecedented levels, operator CDNs are heavily dependent on their servers to intelligently cache content at the network edge and deliver it close to the end customer. However, to realize the full potential from their networks, these CDNs must understand how to accurately plan for peak demand and precisely provision capacity.

To do so, operator CDNs must be able to gain a holistic view of traffic across all their edge servers — also called points of presence (PoPs) — not only to understand how the load on each is trending but also to make sure that each edge location is serving the intended geography.  Routing excess requests from a particular area through a server in a remote location can lead to video stream interruptions and other delays and inconveniences which detract from the end user’s experience.

The stakes are high. Inexact capacity planning often leads to service interruptions, reduced quality of experience, and inefficient use of network resources. To accurately predict peak demand and properly plan capacity then, operator CDNs must understand three essential metrics:

  1. Peak bandwidth: the value in bytes per second of the highest 5-minute average bandwidth
  2. Peak concurrent video streams: the maximum value of average concurrent streams of all the 5-minute periods
  3. Peak hit rate:  requests per second, which provides a good sense for CPU utilization on the edge servers

Understanding these three factors in combination requires multidimensional analytics and reporting that can help operators to drill down to determine the popularity of specific assets, understand the content consumption patterns of their digital media customers and quickly determine the bandwidth demands  imposed on each edge location.

Why a YouTube subscription service just might work

January 29th, 2013

YouTube has been floating a trial balloon for the past year that it might launch an online video subscription service.  Today, it announced plans for a paid subscription service to individual YouTube channels that will roll out this spring.

Your initial reaction to that news may be something akin to “there isn’t any content on YouTube that I would pay for.”  But….

  • What if the new YouTube Pay TV channels included content from select second-tier and third-tier cable channels?  
  • And what if the YouTube channel subscriptions cost just a few bucks a month?  

If you spend a disproportionate amount of your time currently watching the likes of Current TV or The Cooking Channel as part of your monthly cable programming and answered “yes” to the above questions, the new YouTube subscription service may have real appeal.  In fact, it may lead you to pare back to a more basic cable plan (i.e. “cord shaving”) or cut the cord altogether. 

It may make financial sense for the lower tier cable networks to partner with YouTube too.  They currently only receive a sliver of the carriage fees that the network Goliaths like ESPN and MTV command, and they generally occupy undesirable real estate (channel 374 anyone?).

Will some of the niche cable networks run into the willing arms of YouTube? It’s definitely plausible.




Netflix Open Connect is stirring up some open hostilities

January 21st, 2013

Market disruption is always messy.  Witness the ongoing war of words between service provider, Time Warner Cable and over-the-top content provider, Netflix.

Netflix announced its own content delivery network — Open Connect — to much fanfare back in June of last year.  While Netflix and ISPs have had a contentious relationship in recent years, Open Connect seemed to offer something for everybody.

  • Netflix would benefit from reduced reliance on third-party CDNs and the resulting cost savings.  
  • By peering directly with ISPs who own the last mile, Netflix would also benefit from improved end-user quality of experience.  
  • In turn, ISPs would be able to cache content locally and significantly reduce the strain on its network backbone.  That’s a potentially huge benefit, given that Netflix streams 1/3 of all network peak traffic.

To incentivize ISPs to partner, Netflix has required that they join Open Connect in order to stream new high-resolution HD and 3D streaming content.  And that’s where the hostilities arise.

Consumers are enamored with HD content; it definitely has high perceived value.  If their ISP can’t deliver it, well….. consumers will find another one that can.  Naturally, that kind of leverage doesn’t sit well with non-participating service providers, some of whom consider this strategy to resemble thinly veiled coercion.

Where this is going is anybody’s guess, but Open Connect is clearly not fostering the improved relations with ISPs that Netflix had envisioned — at least not across the board.