Internet traffic has exploded. That’s largely thanks to the growth of video streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, and Twitch.
Video files are massive in data terms, and rather than travelling over the open web unaided they often require sophisticated infrastructure to get them from content providers to audiences.
In a new report from BI Intelligence on the online video streaming ecosystem, we explain the complexities and conflicts shaping this video delivery ecosystem, and examine the dynamic role played by content providers, content delivery networks, provider-run CDNs, transit providers, internet service providers, and peering agreements.
Here are the key dynamics surrounding the video streaming ecosystem:
- More and more video traffic is flowing through this new infrastructure: The content delivery networks or CDNs will collectively account for nearly three-fifths of consumer Internet traffic in the U.S. in 2014.
- Pricing is complicated: Pricing for CDNs and for the more specialised transit providers that optimise video delivery, balancing performance and cost, varies a great deal. These players offer plans based on factors like bandwidth, time of day, and volume. Bandwidth is the key factor in pricing, but far from the only one. And special agreements dictate quality parameters.
Which is why more and more content providers are building their own CDNs: Google and Netflix have these in place, and rumours are building that Apple is also assembling its own infrastructure.
- Peering agreements are the big point of contention: The price of connecting video pipes directly has become a fraught issue in the video world. Netflix is striking up agreements with ISPs to guarantee video performance, but at the same time crying foul that they have to do so. Regulators seem undecided on whether this is a good practice. We dive into the hard business decisions driving the debate.
- All the sides — content providers, transit providers, and ISPs — have misrepresented the mechanics and economics of the digital video industry in the context of “net neutrality.” We expect more peering agreements that balance the needs of both — and the consumer. The disputes over video streaming fees boil down to who should pay for the exploding popularity of streaming video, and at what quality of service.
In full, the report:
- Compares the market share and/or roles of transit and CDN players like Akamai, Limelight, Level3, Cogent and others.
- Provides an overview and infographics explaining the streaming video ecosystem.
- Explains the role and underlying economics of settlement free peering, content distribution networks (CDNs), and transit providers.
- Compares the pricing models that underlie each of these different mechanisms for routing video traffic.
- Lays out the landscape of “last-mile” Internet service providers (ISPs).
- Looks at the real place of peering agreements in the net neutrality debate.
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