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Today we made an exciting announcement about Akamai's Aura Network Solutions, explaining the Operator CDN offerings that we have today and detailing new components, some of which came from the recent acquisition of Verivue.
We all know about the explosion of internet traffic over the past 5 years and how hyperconnected consumers are. Operators particularly feel the pain when trying to deliver content and video to their subscribers, via multiple devices, as they look to save costs, increase revenue, simplify their infrastructure and perhaps most importantly - deliver a superior user experience. Because of this, operators are increasingly deploying their own CDNs. That's where Aura comes in. Here are the highlights...

There are two main solutions within Aura, Aura Lumen, and Aura Spectra.  Aura Lumen is a suite of licensed Operator CDN (OCDN) solutions that enable operators to create new opportunities with a highly scalable media CDN for multi-screen video services, large object delivery and HTTP caching. The Aura Lumen OCDN provides a solution that directly impacts the bottom line by providing opportunities for new revenues, cost reductions and increased network efficiency. Aura Lumen also enables operators to offer multi-screen services and deliver a high Quality of Experience (QoE) for online content, including many OTT services, features that have been shown to increase subscriber satisfaction and loyalty.

Aura Spectra is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) CDN suite that enables operators to create new opportunities for delivery of multi-screen video services, large object delivery and commercial CDN services. Aura Spectra provides an operator with underlying CDN capabilities through an infra- structure that is maintained by Akamai and monitored 24/7, thereby eliminating most complexity.

Perhaps it's best said by our fearless leader... Mick Scully, the Vice President and General Manager of our Carrier Products Division here at Akamai...

"The value of CDNs is very clear to the operator community, but getting to a place where they can realize the benefits requires a deep understanding of the CDN market along with significant investment in technology. Through our Aura Network Solutions, we're able to provide operators with new ways to take advantage of the IP media revolution, evolve their business models and create opportunities to, differentiate their networks, and attract and keep new subscribers. And we're doing it in a way that's intended to be as flexible and cost effective for our customers as possible."

You can learn more from Mick about the market for operator CDN and our Aura offerings in a new video on our web site where he answers some questions from yours truly. You'll also find the full announcement, new product briefs and more at: Akamai.com/aura.

But don't just take my word for it. Check out what Multichannel News, Fierce Telecom, Video Nuze and Streaming Media had to say about Aura.

Xbox Reveal Sets Akamai Records

Last week's Xbox One Reveal event ranked among one of the most-watched live broadcasts that Akamai has delivered. A post on Xbox Wire notes that the event "nearly [doubled] peak traffic records and [eclipsed] concurrent viewership high-water marks set by events such as the 2010 World Cup, Royal Wedding in 2011, and 2012 election night."

Xbox also reported that more than 8.45 million people watched the Xbox One Reveal in the first 24 hours and Nielsen numbers indicated the SPIKE TV broadcast of the briefing was the #1 television show for Men 18-34 at 10 am on May 21.

For more, visit Xbox Wire.

Chris Nicholson is a senior public relations manager at Akamai.

TV Everywhere Getting There

TV Everywhere (TVE) is still evolving, but progress is indeed being made, agreed Will Richmond, Editor and publisher of VideoNuze, Corey Halverson, product director of media business solutions for Akamai, and Brightcove's CTO for media and broadcast solutions, Albert Lai, during a panel discussion at the PLAY 2013 Brightcove customer conference this week in Boston. The timely conversation took place in the midst of news from both ABC and Turner about plans to live stream programming to authenticated viewers.

Richmond opened the conversation by soliciting a definition for TVE, which he said continues to mean different things to different people since Comcast and Time Warner first coined the term back in 2009. "TVE is TV business models meeting consumer choice and demand," according to Halverson, who noted that the concept can still be very confusing.

Lai stressed the central role of authentication in TVE, which is critical in granting consumers access to the content that is available to them. This requires relationships and clear agreements between content providers and operators to avoid potentially confusing situations. "I use DirecTV for my TV and Time Warner for Internet service. Who decides what content I can access?" Lai asked to illustrate the point.

"This isn't your grandmother's video streaming," said Halverson in explaining that TV Everywhere brings together numerous technology pieces to support transformative change in the TV business. Among those are ad pod management and advertising, which he called a treasure trove of interesting activity.

Video: Authenticating TV Everywhere

The complexities that come with building and operating TV Everywhere services have been well documented over the years. Making it easier is one of the key goals of Akamai's Sola Media Solutions. To that end, Brightcove, an Akamai NetAlliance Partner, recently announced the integration of its TV Everywhere authentication solution with our Sola Vision Identity Services. Joint customers can take advantage of the integration in their efforts to make premium video content available on more devices.

Akamai's Adam Greenbaum took a few minutes during the 2013 NAB Show to speak with Brightcove about TVE and how our customers can leverage the new integration. A senior product manager for TV Everywhere/Identity, Adam discussed TVE business strategies and the importance of authentication to extend content deals and monetize services.

Check out Adam's video below:


Keeping it Simple at the 2013 NAB Show

Fresh off an action-packed week at this year's NAB conference, I wanted to take a second to reflect on some of the key takeaways that stood out for us at Akamai over the course of the show. 

The mantra of simplicity was present in full force, just as it was at IBC. Broadcasters and content providers are looking to dramatically simplify their workflows and truly bring them into the cloud. Those who were initially hesitant are starting to take aggressive steps to abstract the complexities of their hardware-based solutions while taking advantage of completely new workflow options such as cloud-based transcoding and advertising. 

Simplify, then monetize. Companies are not only looking to simplify, they are increasingly being asked by the business folks to monetize their video operations. As expected, advertising is one of the best ways to do this. However, existing models make it difficult to do so. Today, a lot of dependency is put on the media player and device, and this doesn't always lead to a streamlined experience. Ads playing at low quality, breaking up the experience and in general providing more annoyance than information can cause the viewer to tune out. These issues generated a lot of interest in Akamai's cloud-based Ad Integration Services at NAB, which can support a smoother experience for the viewer while delivering more relevant, targeted advertisements.
This is the second installment in a series of posts that discuss various challenges of online video and how Akamai's Sola Media Solutions can be used to address those challenges.

What goes into a successful media analytics strategy? How can video analytics help you control costs, ensure service delivery quality and maximize ROI? This was one of several recurring topics during the many conversations that we enjoyed during last week's NAB show. 

Understanding how - and where - content is being consumed is a challenge that companies in virtually every industry are struggling with. From media and entertainment sites where streaming media is a core business focus to social media sites, retailers, and corporate training teams, maximizing engagement and driving adoption are critical challenges.

Ensure freshness and verify adoption
This is particularly true of live streaming video, given its growing adoption, time sensitivity/"freshness," global universe of users, and variety of device/browser platforms that must be accommodated by providers. Forecasts point to a burgeoning business, with global online TV and video revenues expected to exceed $28 billion and 480 million homes in 40 countries watching online TV and video by 2017.1

Live Video Madness

Turner Sports has released a trove of statistics on video streaming from the opening week of this year's NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship, which indicate healthy growth in live video streaming for the event across both broadband and mobile. Turner delivered what it called a record 36.6 million live video streams during the opening week of NCAA March Madness Live, doubling the 18.3 million live streams it delivered over the full course of last year's tournament.

The 36.6 million streams represented 10 million hours of live video, up 198% over the 2102 tournament. Unique broadband visitors watching live video increased 161% over last year to 4.2 million, while unique mobile app viewers rose 121% to 2.6 million.

Engagement went up as well, with viewers watching 105 minutes of live video on broadband and 61 minutes on mobile, a rise of 12% and 42%, respectively, over 2012. Interestingly, mobile streaming appeared to increase as viewers left their offices, having made up an average 46% of all live video streams on Thursday and Friday and 60% over the weekend.

Turner Sports also listed the five most popular games based on live video streams from last week:

  • Valparaiso vs. Michigan State - 1,844,000
  • Bucknell vs. Butler - 1,784,000
  • Mississippi vs. Wisconsin - 1,778,000
  • Albany vs. Duke - 1,488,000
  • Davidson vs. Marquette - 1,487,000

Four of the top five games started between noon and 1 PM on the East Coast. While it would seem to indicate that much of the viewing took place at work, employers can take at least some solace in the fact that employees in the eastern part of the U.S. were generally doing so during lunch hours. 

Somewhat surprising is that none of those top four games were necessarily nailbiters, with the average margin of victory being just over 11 points. The only close game - Marquette edging Davidson by one point - was fifth on the list and didn't start until 3:10 PM ET.

With the tournament field now whittled down to 12 after last night and the remaining games and the next round extending through the weekend, it will be interesting to observe how the combination of higher stakes but with fewer teams and games not being played during general working hours in the U.S. will affect streaming rates and viewing patterns.

Chris Nicholson is a senior public relations manager for Akamai.

Springsteen Drives 'Astronomical' GRAMMY Live Views

Funny that the man who once grumbled about "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)" would later be responsible for an unprecedented spike in online video views, a term that didn't even exist when the song was released in 1992. Yet that's what happened when Bruce Springsteen fans flocked in record numbers to watch the online broadcast of the MusiCares Person of the Year Red Carpet, the pre-cursor to the star-studded tribute to Springsteen that took place the Friday prior to the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards earlier this month. The red carpet arrivals were available for anyone to watch via GRAMMY Live, The Recording Academy's online broadcast experience, powered by Akamai and AEG Digital Media, which provided viewers around the world with access across multiple devices to exclusive, behind-the-scenes events surrounding the GRAMMYs.

The Person of the Year Springsteen Red Carpet event views were astronomical, giving us the highest traffic rates that we've seen in the four years of GRAMMY Live for that event," said Paul Madeira, Executive Producer of GRAMMY Live and Senior Director/Producer - Media Productions for The Recording Academy. "That's a testament to Bruce and his legions of passionate followers."

A Key Launch: Ad Integration Services

Last week, Akamai launched Sola Ad Integration Services, a cloud-based solution designed to enable targeted, dynamic ad insertion into online video streams on live, linear and VoD content. Why is this so important? The simple answer is a projected $4.14 Billion in ad spending in 2013 that's growing to $8.04 Billion by 2016 according to eMarketer. Reaching your audience when they're viewing their favorite video content across a dramatically growing range of connected devices is essential, and employing ad targeting is now a basic requirement. Delivering both conditions using the best video viewing quality, in a simplified workflow, on an open flexible platform at scale is central to participating in the ad industry's growth.

By developing Ad Integration Services within the Akamai network -- built upon the Akamai Intelligent Platform -- the solution offers reliability and scale matching content, bitrate matching, a simplified client, and many built in feature integrations not available anywhere else.

Akamai's Ad Integration Services solves the many challenges facing the advertising industry by delivering the capacity to monetize HLS connected devices like iPhones and iPads, which are harder to reach but amount to a huge portion of on-line Internet traffic. It delivers customized or personalized advertising that drives higher visitor engagement and ad revenue for publishers. By simplifying the client with ad stitching inside the network and building upon Sola Vision's Stream Packaging, the solution facilitates a better video ad quality that matches the video content for a smooth, TV-like viewing experience. The simplified workflow for content owners has a flexible and open ADS-agnostic platform, giving the choice of working with the Ad Decision Systems and OVP/CIS of their preference. In leveraging the Akamai Intelligent Platform, Akamai's Ad Integration Services is able to offer broadcast-level services with the availability, reliability and extensibility for quality performance at scale!

MobileRider Gains Competitive Edge with Akamai

The eyes of the extreme skiing and snowboarding worlds will be on Vail, Colo., and Kirkwood, Calif., starting today for the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships and Swatch Freeride World Tour 2013 presented by The North Face. Viewers around the world will be able to enjoy live HD streams of both events on Internet-connected devices thanks to Akamai partner, MobileRider.

Experts in delivering live and on-demand content over the Internet and across multiple platforms, MobileRider uses Akamai's Sola Sphere content delivery platform for all of its live and on-demand video requirements, from action sports events like snowboarding, skiing, surfing and paintball, to major concerts and artists such as U2, Madonna and KISS. For the U.S. Open and Freeride events, MobileRider is deploying turnkey packages that include satellite transmission and encoding, delivery, and media management that support the quality, custom look and functionality that content owners and viewers have come to require and expect.

Satellite antennas and moguls at the FIS Freestyle International at Utah's Deer Valley.

"Akamai gives MobileRider a competitive edge," according to Noah Hollander, the company's COO. "We went through a long and arduous search for a strategic content delivery partner, and discovered that Akamai's innovation is helping us offer the best possible services to our customers."

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