With the arrival of faster Internet speeds, online video consumption has reached new levels in India, with OTT (over-the-top) video platforms such as Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, and Netflix bringing new content to attract Indian viewers. At the same time, leading content delivery network Akamai - which has more than 240,000 servers spread across over 130 countries worldwide - is building new solutions to enhance end user experiences while helping keep content providers keep their costs in check. Gadgets 360 caught up with Parimal Pandya, Vice President, Media - APJ, Akamai Technologies to find out more about the latest developments at the company.
"Our customers often say that there are three most important things for them, including content, users (eyeballs), and delivery," says Pandya. "They get the content and eyeballs from their sides, but who does the delivery? That's where we come in."
Pandya acknowledges that delivering video over the Web - be it on-demand, or especially live - is a "very difficult task" due to the large number of the variables involved.
"It's no longer like broadcast or satellite where once the content is up, all you have to do is circulate it through the air," he highlights. "The infrastructure has to be there. The core technology also has to be there, including the software and the technology that enables it across multiple components. It has to be in the content providers' data centre, in the cloud with us, and on the player application on the phone. Finally, then you have to be able to do it at scale with economics that enables the business model."
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Akamai aims to provide content providers a "broadcast-like experience at scale" that enables not just everything mentioned above, but doing so while keeping the costs in check. Pandya says the company ensures that it can continue to improve so that more content consumption can be made possible while keeping the business models viable, enabling the entry of newer players.
"We are working on an area where we can achieve the scale that we think is going to come and hit us in the next few years, but hit that scale without cost-growing [in a] linear [fashion]," Pandya states. "Once we can solve for that, we can open up the market for many more users, many more viewers, and enable our content providers to do that without having to constantly worry about the incremental cost to serve an incremental user."
According to a recent PwC report, India is expected to enter the top 10 OTT video markets in the next four years, and the OTT video revenue from the country is tipped to reach Rs. 5,595 crore by 2022. All this highlights a huge potential for content providers as well as the content delivery intermediaries like Akamai.
"As a country, we love to tell stories and we love to watch stories as is demonstrated in our movie industry and television industry," says Pandya. "A lot of those consumption patterns that are making their way now to a device like a smartphone, which for the first time empowers the user to watch content whenever they want and wherever they want, and however they want."
Earlier this year Akamai showed off its skills in scaling up the delivery of online content by serving as many as 10.3 million concurrent Hotstar users during IPL 2018. "We work with our content providers to ensure that we can deliver across hundreds of different kinds of devices and platforms," says Pandya on how that was made possible. "We also work very closely with our content provider customers to make sure that we can make the content available in a way that is suitable for the device."
"One big take away from delivering some of the large events is that we've seen that consumers come to consume that particular event but then they stay on the platform," adds Pandya, on how this scale helps content providers in the long run.
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Akamai has a team of around 1,700 people in India, and many of them are working on research and development to build new products and services. "They're doing work on problems that may be related to India or even globally," says Pandya. "Our view on that is innovation happens everywhere and what is more important is we have to look out for the next big ideas and make sure that we can find the way to get them done."
"One of the big innovations that we've brought out to the market - which we think is a game changer - is the MSL, which allows you to accelerate ingest between the origin and the Akamai entry point," he explains. "This means that it is more resilient to network conditions, faster because faster the content gets to the Akamai server, it can pump out and push it out faster. That has had a huge impact on our ability to cut down the latency and make the overall experience more reliable."
Akamai is also expanding its monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to reduce any stream errors en-route and enable faster delivery of content. "We spent a lot of time making sure that we're monitoring the entire workflow all the way from where the content is originating to where it's been played back," says Pandya. "That enables us to identify issues faster and resolve issues faster. We're pleased to the progress we've made, and we continue to make innovations, and from the technology standpoint, we continue to expand our overall capability and continue to expand our monitoring and diagnostics and other capabilities so we can address streaming issues."
"In the future, video streaming is going to be about fast connectivity or fast performance," Pandya signs off. "It's also going to be scale, 4K maybe, and interactivity between the user and the content - especially in the live stream use case. There's going to be a lot more social engagements as well."