Akamai on trends in online video consumption

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This year's CES 2014 saw a slew of gigantic 4K televisions being showcased, as well as announcements made on some surprisingly affordable 4K monitors. As more and more laptops start adopting full HD as standard, the demand for higher quality video looks set to increase. Even as network engineers lay the groundwork for dealing with greater network traffic volumes than ever, it pays to understand online video trends in 2014.

For this, we approached David Habben, who is the chief strategist in media for Asia Pacific & Japan for Akamai Technologies. Habben has over 20 years of experience in the telecommunications, Internet and media industries under his belt and is currently based in Sydney, Australia. (He has also lived and worked in an astonishing number of countries including the United States, Hong Kong, South Korea, China, New Zealand, India and Thailand). Check out what he has to say.

FCIO: Could you tell us more about Akamai's role with delivering online content and video?

At Akamai we deliver up to 30 percent of the world's web content, the vast majority of which is video. Video has some unique challenges of scale and the consumer expectation of "as good as TV" experiences.  Akamai's offering allows our customers to innovate fearlessly taking away the heavy lifting involved in content preparation, security, delivery and analytics into the world's largest cloud computing platform.

Our most recent partnerships is with NBC Olympics, where Akamai provides video and web acceleration in a way which protects the infrastructure, consumer data and content for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. This stemmed from the need to provide a consistent and high-quality live-streaming experience for their viewers, which marks the first time that all Winter Games competitions will be streamed live.

FCIO: How  is Internet traffic driven by online video consumption in the Asia Pacific?

According to Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI), Internet video accounted for 57 percent of global consumer web traffic in 2012, with this set to increase to 69 percent in 2017. Asia Pacific today accounts for about one third of this traffic and, as the world's fastest growing region, this will increase.

Video will be the largest online application, especially as all forms of traditional media such as news, entertainment and sports migrate to the Internet. Moreover with online video consumption driven by the availability of fast bandwidth we will likely see online video consumption becoming a greater component of Internet traffic. In the Asia Pacific some countries have some of the world's highest connection speeds with South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong all over 10Mbps and three times the global average.

FCIO: What are some trends that you have observed with online video consumption?

If the world's "prime time TV audience" moved online tomorrow it would exceed the entire capacity of the public Internet so we are only at the start of a mega trend. Only two years ago our peaks were at times when TV wasn't available (such as during office hours) but now our peaks are during prime time viewing illustrating a significant consumer shift. 

Also, video consumption is not isolated to the media and entertainment industry. From eCommerce to eTraining, videos are being used in various ways to drive sales, communicate and educate. In eCommerce products with video previews attract significantly higher "sales" than images only.

A great example is Airbnb (.pdf), a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique accommodations around the world, either online or from a mobile phone. The website taps on Akamai's ability to deliver large media files, such as videos and pictures, safely and securely across the globe, allowing them to scale the business as demand increases.

FCIO: Can you tell us more about the challenge of delivering high volume traffic with ever-increasing video quality?

Consumers expect an HD TV-like experience. A recent Akamai study found that slow start up times; re-buffering and poor video quality will turn consumers away, especially for hyper-wired Gen Y's. In addition we expect much higher quality experiences. We are already delivering 4K/UHD content for some customers despite the technology only being recently launched and not available on tradition cable or TV broadcasts.

FCIO: Do you have any advice for enterprises that are currently considering using a CDN?

At the London Olympics only 18 months ago there were over a billion streams and approximately 10 percent of them were tablets. Four years previously at Beijing, the iPad didn't exist! For Rio in a bit over 2 years we are already preparing to stream to watches and glasses as a raft of new cellular and hard wired device shape and sizes.

The pace of innovation is exponential so any infrastructure investments are obsolete within months. The "CDN's" role is expanding into a complete delivery platform to package, transform, secure and delivery content.  

As the "volumes" online increase it will also become increasingly unmanageable for customers to "do it themselves" requiring large teams and huge amounts of infrastructure. Providing for this growth is also a key component.

The biggest advantage of Akamai is the ability to delivery at very high quality with a minimum of rebuffering and low start up times. These things kill the video experience driving away consumers to competitors.

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