The company that created the content delivery network (CDN) space in the late 1990s has taken steps that clearly define the evolution of the larger market segment far beyond connected servers for handling rich media with yesterday’s introduction of Integrated Advertising Services – addressing the revenue side of online video.
Akamai and others including Level 3 Communications, Limelight Networks and Mirror Image Internet, have long since advanced beyond the CDN silo by adding increasingly advanced and powerful services to their portfolios to address the core challenges encountered by customers with their online video ventures.
In the Beginning
Then known as CDNs, their first daunting challenge was to ensure video performance beyond the edge of their networks, where traffic was handed off to last mile ISPs. This once daunting challenge has been met.
Next, customers’ increasing need for performance data and analysis packages to put their streaming events in business and technical perspectives. CDNs either created such packages themselves or brought them aboard from partners such as Conviva, Inc. and Skytide.
With these powerful packages – which measure key viewer metrics such as engagement – customers wanted the ability to optimize their events in real-time so that each viewer had the best available experience regardless of access bandwidth, and that network outages didn’t black out any viewers.
Thanks to the implementation of enabling technologies such as adaptive bit rate streaming, these issues have been addressed, and the outlook is far brighter than just a few years ago.
Service Provider Opportunities
With Akamai, Level 3 Communications, Limelight Networks and others advancing light years past basic content delivery to offer the above mentioned features and capabilities, delivery became commoditized to the point where service providers sought to add that DNA to their current networks.
Rapidly identifying this new customer base, the one-time enterprise-only delivery guys either acquired companies; Akamai bought Verivue last year, or began offering service providers all they need from the initial CDN menu complete with frills.
This opened the floodgates to small and midsize businesses as well as new ventures that are finding plenty of ways to harness efficient and affordable content delivery offerings.
The Business of Video: Advancing Advertising
Now these companies, along with the rest of the video ecosystem (B-to-C) face perhaps their tallest task to date: enabling effective advertising to financially drive the streaming industry forward. It’s an all-hands-on-deck undertaking that has all parties focused on the business of video.
Akamai hopes to forward the effort with its Advertising Integration Services offering. The company says the service performs “dynamic insertion of targeted advertisements into video streams across Internet-connected devices” in a way that is better suited for large audiences.
The problem with targeted advertising it that it’s targeted. It’s not the shotgun, one-ad-fits-all-viewers approach that’s practiced by automakers and others that dream about the ability to more granularly reach potential buyers.
Services that advance the cause of advertising for online video (live and on-demand) along with the evolutionary steps Akamai and other have already taken, define evolution of a market segment with origins in broadband networking.
I wouldn’t suggest calling them CDNs nowadays as they are more digital media solutions or intelligent platform providers. But call them if you’re looking for an all-inclusive answer to your content needs. And stay tuned as the companies in this space prove they have what it takes to evolve to meet all customers’ needs – often before customers are even clear on what those needs are.
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