Media and Web Performance CDN Pricing Survey: Raw Data Now Available

In April I completed my yearly pricing survey asking customers of third-party content delivery networks what they pay, which vendor(s) they use and how much their traffic is growing amongst a host of other questions. New this year I also collected data on web performance pricing. If you are interested in purchasing all of the raw data, minus the customer’s names, please contact me. (917-523-4562) The media CDN pricing raw data is from over 600 customers and the web performance based pricing data is from over 50 customers. I can also collect custom data as well, around third-party CDN services.

Conviva Raises 6th Round Of Funding Totaling $40M, Has Raised $112M To Date

This morning Conviva announced their sixth round of funding in the amount of $40M, with money coming from a new investor, Future Fund, along with several existing investors. To date Conviva has now raised a total of $112M. Conviva has been the longest operating vendor in the market offering content owners the ability to measure the QoE of their OTT offerings with the company saying they have 200 video publishing brands and service providers including the likes of HBO, SKY, and Turner.

While the company won’t disclose any revenue numbers, the number I keep hearing whispered in the industry is that Conviva did around $70M in revenue in 2016. I have no way to verify that, but a former Conviva employee told me they wanted to do $100M+ in revenue by 2017, which to me, seems aggressive.

Conviva published their latest viewing minutes numbers across all customers citing 80% growth last year to 1 billion minutes / day and expected growth of 150% for 2018. Their customer billing model is based on viewer hours so you can extrapolate that their revenue would grow with increased viewing time. The company claims to be growing faster than the overall OTT market that is estimated to be somewhere at around 20-30% CAGR.

Conviva told me that 3-5% of the total spend on traditional TV goes to measurement and analytics and they believe the total available market will be the same for OTT. Their rationale is that the added value of continuous, census-based measurement and analytics over the internet and a wide variety of consumer video devices is inherently more valuable than more traditional panel-based statistical approaches. This market has historically been relatively small, but is now getting much more competitive, so the success of these companies will be based on the market truly experiencing accelerated growth and the recent historic drop in traditional Pay-TV subscribers is a good leading indicator of that being the case.

Conviva said they raised this round to do strategic development on their AI for video platform and the sensor network they deploy across all their publisher’s customer viewing devices. Collection and basic measurement will feel downwards price pressure with competition and market maturity, so they feel this product vision will be key to their success. In speaking with the company I learned that they have very sophisticated AI or machine learning models that have been trained for years on their large customer base of video viewing data. They stressed the large and diverse data set derived from continuous real-time measurement of all metrics and metadata associated with every second of all video viewing sessions.

This is not just QoE data, but also engagement data, audience data, content metadata, infrastructure metadata, and more. The combination of this continuous and comprehensive data collection and AI purpose-built for video could be a very interesting formula to unleash enormous value for OTT businesses.

How The Right Kind Of Marketing Can Prevent Webinar Burnout

According to a recent benchmarking report from the Content Marketing Institute, 58% of marketers said webinars are part of their content marketing strategy. Webinars initially gained popularity because they allow businesses to educate their existing customers about products and services and they provide an opportunity to meet prospective customers and gain high quality leads. So, why are webinars getting such a bad rap these days?

Marketers spend a great deal of time developing webinar content and we all get tons of email invites to industry webinars. However, no matter how great your content is, your webinar is intended to be a door opener, not a deal closer. By managing this expectation, understanding the basics of webcasting, building webinars that focus on engagement and including the sales team in the process, marketers can turn webinars into key lead gen opportunities.

Though webinars may seem simple, there are a few best practices you must follow in order to create a quality, lead-generating webinar:

  • Collect key audience information: Building an engaging experience that entices viewers to enter your sales funnel starts with a strong webinar landing page. Include all of the essential information around who is presenting the webinar, what topics are being covered, how viewers will benefit from attending and when the event is taking place. The landing page also needs to include a distinguishable call to action asking viewers to sign-up. And it’s best to use a contrasting color to ensure it’s one of the first things visitors see when they click on your page. The signup form should gather name, email, company and reason for watching the webinar. While you can ask for more information, it’s best to limit the number of fields to around four, since any more may deter sign-ups. Collecting this information will be key for your pre and post-webinar marketing activities.
  • Prioritize digestible content: To ensure your webcast is effective, make the content easy to read, desirable to share, customer-centric and actionable. Allowing viewers to download the slides or other presentation materials encourages them to actively participate and share the materials. Posting a recording of the webinar online will extend the content’s shelf-life and result in more leads over time.
  • Keep it brief: A recent study found that the average on-demand viewing time for webinars was 39 minutes, while the live viewing time jumped up to 50 minutes. If your webinar is shaping up to be longer than that, identify sections that can be modified before presenting or consider breaking up the presentation into two parts.

Engage with the audience
In a discussion with Luis Ramirez, director of marketing at West’s Unified Communication Services, he highlighted that, “Engaging with your audience is not only key to keeping them attentive during the webinar, it’s also a great way to collect real-time lead generation data. You want to elicit reactions, responses and interactions from your audience that can help shed light on their pain points, challenges and business needs.” One easy way to do this is by building in time for a live Q&A. You can ask for questions beforehand or during the webinar using a chat-style messaging board. If you’re unable to answer all the live or pre-emailed questions in the webinar, following up with an email or phone call not only shows the potential customer that you care but it also provides a lead-in for sales talks.

You can also capture viewers’ attention with a live poll during the webinar. This makes viewers feel like they’re impacting the webinar and will ultimately keep them interested longer. Additionally, some platforms, like West’s Webcast Pro, offer engagement tracking tools that measure and score audience participation. This data can then be used to inform your sales approach and improve future webinars.

Sync up with your sales team
Webcasts are a great way to connect with your customers, but at the end of the day, they are intended to create qualified leads. Demonstrate your webcasts’ value by integrating your webcast data including its sign-up form and engagement metrics with your CRM system. Engagement data is particularly great for qualifying leads. For instance, you can segment leads by those who watched the entirety of your webinar and those who watched 50%, and disqualify those who only watched a few minutes. You can also identify follow-up activities based on how participants responded to poll questions.

Since webinars are designed to be lead generation incubators, it’s important to find ways to incorporate your sales team into the process, either by hosting the webcast or leading communications afterward to help connect the dots and initiate potential deals. For instance, it’s a good idea to send a thank you message to those who attended your webinar. However, your sales team can take the extra step and follow up with viewers personally to see if they got the information they were looking for and if they’re interested in learning more about your company.

While companies often treat webinars as just another channel to disseminate information and build out their content, this quickly becomes a wasted investment. To actually gain a return on investment with webinars, companies must master webcasting basics, engage with the audience and align their webinars with their sales tools. Gaining qualified leads is the goal, and companies can use more engaging and interactive webinars to get there.

Why Apple’s HEVC Announcement Is A Big Step Forward For The Streaming Media Industry

The battle for bandwidth is nothing new. As CE manufacturers push the bounds on display technologies, and with 360 and VR production companies demonstrating ever more creative content, the capacity of networks will be taxed to levels much greater than we see today. For this reason, the Apple announcement at their 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference that they are supporting HEVC in High Sierra (macOS) and iOS 11 is going to be a big deal for the streaming media industry. There is little doubt that we are going to need that big bandwidth reduction that HEVC can deliver.

While HEVC has already been established on some level since Netflix, VUDU, Fandango Now, and Amazon Instant Video have been distributing HEVC encoded content, that’s all been to non-mobile devices to date. But what about the second screen, where more than 50% of viewing time is occurring? With this announcement, Apple set the de-facto standard for the premium codec on second screen devices. We know that H.264 is supported fully across the mobile device ecosystem and any codec, which is going to replace it must have a realistic path to being ubiquitous across devices and operating systems. That’s why the argument from some that VP9 will win on mobile, never made sense, as I don’t see any scenario where Apple would adopt a Google video codec. But prior to Monday morning June 5th, 2017, and the WWDC2017 HEVC announcement, no one could say for certain that this wouldn’t happen.

We’ll likely never know what the considerations were for Apple to select HEVC over VP9. With VP9 supported only on Android devices while HEVC is supported on Apple as well as certain Android devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Tab, streaming services now face a conundrum. Do they encode their entire library twice (HEVC and VP9) or only once (HEVC) to cover iOS devices and connected TVs? The decision is an obvious one. HEVC should receive the priority over VP9 as most services have too much content to maintain three libraries (H.264, HEVC, VP9). When you consider that HEVC decoding is available in software and hardware for Android, the choice to deploy HEVC as the next generation codec beyond H.264 seems an obvious one.

With Beamr and other HEVC vendors supporting OTT streaming services in production since 2014, we are well down the road with a proven technology in HEVC. And as we heard from Joe Inzerillo, CTO of BAMTech during his keynote talk at Streaming Media East show, serious companies should not be wasting time with “free” technology that ultimately is unproven legally. Though Joe may have been thinking of VP9 when he made this statement, it could have also been referring to the Alliance for Open Media codec AV1 which has been receiving some press of late mainly for being “free.” My issue with AV1 is that the spec is not finalized so early proof of concepts can be nothing more than just that, proof of concepts that may never see production for at least 18-24 months if not longer. Then there is the issue of playback support for AV1 where to put it simply, there is none.

What Apple delivers to the industry with adoption of HEVC is 1 billion active iOS devices across the globe, where consumer demand for video has never been higher. Until today, OTT services have been limited by only having access to an H.264 codec across the massive Apple device ecosystem. I predict that the first “user” of the HEVC capability will be Apple themselves, as they will likely re-encode their entire library including SD and HD videos to take advantage of the 40% bitrate reduction that HEVC can deliver over H.264, as Apple has claimed. Streaming services with apps in the app store, or those who deliver content for playback on iOS devices will need to be mindful that the consumer will be able to see the improved UX and bandwidth savings from iTunes, along with higher quality.

I reached out to Beamr to get their take on the Apple HEVC news and Mark Donnigan, VP of marketing make three good point to me. The first point is that higher quality at lower bitrates will be a basic requirement to compete successfully in the OTT market. As Mark commented, “Beamr’s rationale for making this claim is that consumers are growing to expect ever higher quality video and entertainment services. Thus the service that can deliver the best quality with the least amount of bits (lowest bandwidth) is going to be noticed and in time preferred by consumers.” Beamr has been hitting their speed claim hard saying that they can deliver an 80% speed boost with Beamr 5 compared to x265, which removes the technical overhead of HEVC.

Mark also suggested that, “there is no time to wait for integrating HEVC encoding into content owners video workflow. Though every vendor will make the time is of the essence claim, in this case, it’s possible that they aren’t stretching things. With iOS 11 and High Sierra public betas rolling out to developers in June, and to users this fall, video distributors who have not yet commissioned an HEVC encoding workflow don’t have a good reason to still be waiting.” It’s well known that outside of Netflix, VUDU, Amazon Instant Video and a small number of niche content distributors, HEVC is not in wide use today. However, active testing and evaluation of HEVC has been going on for several years now. Which means it’s possible that there are services closer to going live than some realize.

Finally, Mark also correctly pointed out that Apple is clearly planning to support HDR with displays and content. With the announcement that the new iMac’s will sport a 500 nit display, 10-bit graphics support (needed for HDR) and will be powered by the 7th generation Intel Kaby Lake processor with Iris Pro GPU, Apple is raising the bar on consumer experience. Not every home may have an HDR capable TV, but with Apple pushing their display and device capabilities ever higher, consumers will grow to expect HDR content even on their iOS devices. Soon it will not be sufficient to treat the mobile device as a second class playback screen. As Mark told me, “Services who do not adopt HDR encoding capabilities (and HEVC is the mandatory codec for the HDR10 standard), will find their position in the market difficult to maintain.” Studies continue to show that higher resolution is difficult for consumers to see, but HDR can be appreciated by everyone regardless of screen size.

Apple drives many trends in our industry, and history has shown that those who ignore them do so at their peril. Whether you operate a high-end service that differentiates based on video quality and user experience, or you operate a volume based service where delivery cost is a key factor, HEVC is here. With HEVC as the preferred codec supported by the TV manufactures, and adopted by some Android devices, and with Apple bringing on board up to 1 billion HEVC capable devices, it seems HEVC has been prioritized by the industry as the next generation codec of choice.

The Business Benefits Of Using A Hybrid DIY CDN Approach To Content Delivery

No CDN provider can guarantee best performance for all kinds of content and across all geographies 100% of the time. For some use cases, this can result in a lack of control over content delivery when and where it is most critical for customers. To counter this, I’m starting to see a move by some companies toward hybrid CDN delivery, defined as building a private DIY CDN on top of a third-party CDN. For some this might seem like overkill, but in business-critical operations, slow performance, downtime and giving up too much control of content can dull a company’s competitive edge.

The hybrid CDN approach enables business advantages that ultimately boil down to optimizing performance within a content delivery ecosystem that they create, control and oversee to ensure availability, reliability, flexibility, and user experience. At the CDN Summit last month, there was a lot of talk about the business benefits of doing a hybrid CDN. The four most important being: always available and risk distribution; performance improvement; flexibility and control; security.

Always available and risk distribution
With online services at the heart of doing business, downtime or outages equal losses. As such, ensuring as-near-as-possible availability is the goal. Coupling a DIY, private CDN with a third-party CDN helps ensure this uptime by avoiding a single point of failure. When a third-party CDN goes down, websites go down with it – leading to the “all eggs in one basket” syndrome. Risk can be distributed more effectively by assembling your own private CDN and adopting a hybrid CDN approach that allows for better insight and control into what is happening in real-time. This results on cuts back on avoidable downtime, and, while seeing fewer problems overall, being able to spot them before or as they hit, to troubleshoot and mitigate their effects early and fast.

Performance improvements
As usual, one size does not fit all, nor does one tool solve all the complex problems: this is why, when looking for performance gains, leveraging a private DIY CDN on top of a third-party CDN ensures that content is deployed by best-performing CDN components in real-time in both regular or surging traffic. It can also allow for content delivery from the PoP closest to your primary region(s), ensuring fastest possible content delivery.

Flexibility and control
Implementing a hybrid CDN approach can let you to gain better oversight into traffic management and better traffic control of content. By creating your own purpose-built CDN ecosystem specifically for the needs of your specific business/traffic patterns you can direct traffic to your own private CDN nodes or third-party nodes to gain maximum performance and efficiency where demand is and run your business and application logic as close to your user as possible. This flexibility also introduces the ability to gain more control of your costs. Private CDNs enable greater scalability, as costs don’t rise based on capacity but rather on number of nodes and requests. This makes a big difference when heavier content (e.g. high-res video) requires more bandwidth. You gain control over your own traffic without adding more costs, paying for bandwidth, which you’d already do anyway, but with a private CDN layer, you gain oversight into the costs you incur. Commercial CDNs are basically rented resources, which can become expensive and out of your control.

Security
Part of “taking back control”” of content includes ensuring its security. For many content owners, having valuable content on a multi-tenant, third-party CDN is not optimal for security. In addition to the aforementioned limitations of “renting resources”, letting your proprietary content travel across someone else’s infrastructure removes the layer of privacy and security some companies need. The private cloud structure can also act as a WAF to provide protection against DDoS and other attacks since with a hybrid CDN solution, your private content is not on an open, public network.

Sometimes the adage “less is more” doesn’t apply. In the case of business-critical content delivery, more is more. A hybrid CDN approach (your own DIY CDN combined with your third-party CDN) lets you address your content delivery challenges on a global scale to get the best of what the hybrid solution offers for tangible, positive business results.

Summing it all up, a DIY CDN solution allows you to:

  • Mitigate outages and downtime.
  • Eliminate the “single point of failure” problem.
  • Set up private nodes that will act as “origin shield” to optimize content delivery and cache-hit ratio, protecting the origin from sudden floods of calls from the CDN.
  • Focus on your performance: with a DIY CDN, you are not sharing performance with the thousands of other customers of the third-party CDN.
  • Direct traffic to your own private CDN nodes or third-party nodes to gain maximum performance and efficiency where demand is and run your business and application logic as close to your user as possible while controlling your costs.
  • Secure your proprietary content by delivering it over your own private CDN.

Recognizing the need for the kind of flexibility and control a DIY CDN offers, Varnish Software and Cedexis partnered last year to create a solution delivering all of these benefits: Varnish Extend. Underpinned by high-performance caching from Varnish Plus and global traffic management from Cedexis, Varnish Extend is a DIY content delivery solution designed specifically to provide tailored, individualized content delivery infrastructure options. [See my post entitled: Varnish Software And Cedexis Announce A New Private Content Delivery Offering]

For more in-depth details on a hybrid CDN approach, check out the video of Varnish Software’s presentation entitled, “Combining Your Existing CDN With a Private Content Delivery Solution” from the CDN Summit last month.