With so much content to choose from, content quality is becoming an increasingly important differentiator. But what many content distributors forget is that having the ability to deliver that same content in a high-quality format – glitch free – is equally as important. After all, if the consumer can’t appreciate the benefits of you shooting in 4K, and HDR – or has their viewing experience soured by buffering delays, then what’s the point?
While many people assume content from Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and catch up TV is being downloaded directly from their website, this isn’t the case. Alongside many other video content providers, each of these companies have built their own dedicated content delivery network (CDN). This is a specialized network that is solely used to ensure high-quality, low-latency delivery of digital data to end consumers on any platform. The alternative to this would be to rent bandwidth on a commercial CDN that would be shared with other content owners.
More than an internet connection
While audiences can invest in the ‘best of the best’ internet connections, many people don’t realise that personal broadband connections only have a small impact over the quality of content delivered. Edgeware CEO Joachim Roos says internet traffic should be thought of like road traffic.
“Just because there is no traffic outside your house, it doesn’t mean the main roads on the way to your office isn’t congested,” he says. “As you go deeper into the network, the aggregated level of TV traffic builds and builds.
“Online video consumption throughout the world is steadily growing by every metric. CDNs provide an advantage in giving companies better quality control and long term cost efficiency compared to commercial CDNs.”
While renting space on a commercial CDN is the most cost-effective and practical solution for content with a small number of viewers, companies can quickly outgrow this. This is when a private CDN comes into play. It offers an economic way to deliver 4K and high quality content with no buffering, delays or glitches. Despite the higher upfront cost of a private CDN, organisations that invest can reap the performance and economic benefits in the long term.
Market gorillas such as YouTube, Amazon and Netflix have turned to private CDNs to help keep up with their growing market. Netflix alone built 1,600 servers into their distribution model. When a viewer accesses content, the system sends it from the nearest of these servers, where it keeps a copy of the popular show in the catalogue. Each server distributes to a smaller number of people locally, rather than sharing their content through the main network alongside millions of other suppliers and consumers.
Creating a targeted ad approach
Private CDN’s also help content owners to take control and create personalised adverts. As online delivery of TV continues to grow, content makers can bypass ad blockers with personalised advertisements that are delivered through the stream.
“Content providers can personalise viewing experiences with digital ad insertion and monitor and analyse all aspects of their TV services,” says Roos. “Detailed analytics provide valuable viewer information including behaviour details, real-time data sources like which device was used, network applications and integrated third-party CDN data”.
Viewing analytics can be correlated with network performance for valuable insight into viewer habits and behaviour.
“Content providers can truly understand who’s watching, what they’re watching, how they’re watching it, and the quality that is being delivered,” explains Roos. “By implementing purpose-built CDNs, much like Netflix or Chinese broadcaster TVB in Hong Kong have done, media owners can take control of their content experiences.”
To build, or not to build?
Edgeware commissioned analyst firm Frost & Sullivan to research the specifics behind when, and if, content distributors need to build their own CDN. The firm discovered that as more people became accustomed to, and expectant of, high-quality OTT services – whether they’re live or on-demand – then reliance on CDN’s increases.
Because of the shift in the popularity of on-demand consumption across multiple devices from linear TV, CDNs have become increasingly important. If content distributors are using a rented CDN service, increasing usage to cope with the amount of bandwidth needed to deliver these formats will quickly see a substantial spike in operating costs. And this is just one of the benefits of a self-built TV CDN. When using a private delivery network, users can use all available bandwidth without needing to pay extra to transport larger film formats – like 4K, VR and 360-degree camera feeds. At the same time, private CDN’s can guarantee quality of service to deliver amazing TV without the dreaded buffering, delays or glitches.
While building your own private CDN can have big upfront costs, it can also create an extra revenue source. Extra capacity can become a business opportunity and be rented out to third parties. This helps those building a private CDN cover the costs of maintaining their cutting-edge infrastructure while also creating a profit in the process.