Akamai Loses Some Hulu Traffic To Level 3 and Limelight Networks

Over the past few days, I've been tracing the delivery paths for a bunch of online video sites on the web, including large and small sites. When it comes to tracing video content from Hulu, historically, everything I saw was always coming from Akamai. But lately, it's clear that Hulu has moved to a multi-vendor strategy and is now also using Level 3 and Limelight Networks for some of their video delivery.

While I don't know what percentage of video traffic has shifted away from Akamai and over to Level 3 and Limelight, it's not a small amount. When tracing content via Hulu's desktop client, 100% of the traces showed Limelight as the provider. I've also noticed that syndicated Hulu videos to other third party sites is being done by both Limelight and Level 3.

And on the main Hulu.com site, content I traced like The Simpsons and 30 Rock was all coming from Level 3's network. Why Hulu would switch from using one provider to at least three providers is not known and with Akamai getting aggressive on pricing, like we saw on the Netflix deal, my initial take is that it's not about price. Hulu is known for having some very strict internal comparison metrics for content delivery, yet we know that they will never make those details public or discuss whether or not delivery performance was a reason for them moving to multiple vendors.

Hulu has also seen a lot of traffic growth, so this could be their way of simply moving to a diversified delivery strategy or maybe an exercise to see what the other CDNs have to offer. I know Hulu had been testing with both Level 3 and Limelight as far back as mid last year, but clearly they are no longer in a testing phase and are passing some serious traffic now with all three vendors.

  • Joshua T. B.

    Strategic move to hedge against network outages as seen during the week of 3/13. I would have to suggest to HULU and others in need of CDN to consider top tier rated companies like Internap Network’s full service CDN with a 100% guarantee or BitGravity’s “Instant On” service. Strangely enough I prefer Internap however as they offer the only performance-optimized content delivery network. Their MIRO technology is always analyzing the network’s performance characteristics, ensuring that traffic for videos are being delivered via the best Internet paths at all times.

  • Internap does not have the capacity Hulu would need and Hulu is not the kind of customer that Internap is going after. They are not a fit for one another in any way.
    You mention “top tier rated companies” yet Akamai, Limelight and Level 3 are the top tier CDNs based on revenue, capacity and number of customers.

  • Joshua T. B.

    Why would they not fit? Internap goes after mid sized cos like HULU. I believe reading $5m to $500m. Also Internap has partnered with larger companies to handle that extra capacity. I know their CDN is micro sized compared to Akamai but HULU seems like a nice fit. What about BitGravity? Limelight is rated top tier? Because of their size and capacity, but not quality I’m sure of that. We had used Level3 and Limelight both and were dissatisfied with their consistent outages and stupendously complex pricing structure. So far so good during the past 8 months with Internap. I doubt we will ever go back.

  • Hulu is not a “mid sized” customer. Hulu is one of the largest content owners on the web today in terms of traffic. For their CDN business, Internap is going after small and medium sized customers, not Hulu, MLB, Netflix or any of the other big guys. The big content owners are not a fit for Internap’s core business or services.
    Internap could not “partner” with others to handle the customers video traffic. The content owners use CDNs to handle their traffic directly, so there is no kind of “partnering” they could do.
    What about BitGravity? They can’t take on Hulu either. They will be lucky just to survive this year, if they can. They have not signed up a lot of customers and their growth has been flat. They are struggling in the market.
    You may not have liked Limelight’s quality, but if we look at the market overall, clearly enough customers did like their quality in order for them to do $131.6M last year in revenue.

  • ses

    Speaking of Internap, any chance you’ll do an update on their CDN? I recall you talking about it a few months ago.
    Would be interesting in any case, since I haven’ heard much about their CDN recently (same goes for Highwinds).

  • Wiggy

    Comment for Joshua – I’m interested in actually finding a happy Internap CDN customer, as Internap had all kinds of problems integrating Vitalstream initially. The problem became so bad that it destroyed Internap’s shareprice and got the CEO canned. Sounds like those problems are fixed now.
    May I ask generally what kind of company you work for and how heavily you use CDN? How good are Internap’s tools for posting content and tracking usage and is their pricing structure simple and straightforward? Much appreciated!