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Conviva analytics provides key data points for managing Sky’s CDNs

The trouble when one vendor tells you about their installation at a Tier 1 pay TV provider like Sky, is that they tend to not want to list all the help they may or may not have got when they worked on the account.

That came up at TV Connect this week when Conviva told us that it provided the analytics which identified the threshold point when online video from Sky was switched from one CDN to another.

We had already been told a few weeks earlier by Nokia, that its Velocix CDN was the “main” in-house CDN for online Sky services like Sky Go and Now TV and that it provided the decisioning behind switching CDNs.

Faultline Online Reporter counts Sky’s OTT service as one of the largest in Europe, up there with Liberty Global’s Horizon Go and associated services such as MyPrime, which our Rethink OTT Intelligence service rate as the two largest paid OTT services in Europe after Netflix.

Sky has about 7.5 million regular users of its various OTT services, and increasingly we see almost all of Sky 12 million plus UK’s customers embracing OTT streams. If you include its German and Italian operations that adds another 4 million regular users, taking it ahead of Liberty Global’s approximately 8.3 million regular paid OTT customers. By contrast Netflix has 19.2 million subscribers in Europe – about the same as the other two put together, and between all 3 that makes up about 44% of paid OTT traffic in Europe.

So this is an important installation and credit needs to go to the right place in the eco-system.

Conviva CMO, Ed Haslam told us, “Sky runs its own CDN and our data feeds into that. We produce the analytics data on when a threshold is reached when it makes sense to switch CDNs”

“The key QoE metric is that when rebuffering occurs just 0.4% of the time we are ready to switch, but before that we need to understand precisely what each customer is doing. I mean if he has grabbed the front bar and is trying to drag the video forward an hour, then it will buffer, so in that instance we don’t switch CDNs. Our analytics provides all the intelligence to make that decision.”

Effectively the system operates a really temporary, brief blacklist of CDNs which are currently in an unhealthy state and points to the next most economic CDN that will meet the Sky criteria. By economic that is the cheapest CDN which will deliver video without buffering.

As a result of this the pair got shortlisted for a TV Connect Best Content Delivery Service award, but in the end, that went to Huawei.

A few weeks ago Paul Larbey head of the video business unit at Nokia told us, “Sky has deployed our CDN to better manage UK VoD traffic,” and when asked about whether or not Sky in fact used multiple CDNs, told us, “There is a mix of CDNs and they will still continue to have a role. But the Velocix CDN now also chooses when to use them.” Larbey was referring to the use of pure play CDNs such as Akamai, Limelight Networks and Level 3 – and the fairly modern practice of using some measure of load balancing for when any dominant CDN finds it has too much traffic at one particular location.

Guessing between the lines, Sky is now using the Velocix software to build its own CDN and the Conviva analytics data is collected, and decides if it crosses a threshold, then Velocix physically manages the re-route to the selected CDN. As we say, both companies seem to be claiming the credit here, but all it really shows is that managing multiple CDNs properly is complex and requires working hand in hand with on device analytics data so you can make all these decisions real time and data driven.

Conviva said that its Quality of Experience (QoE) analytics for OTT video helped Sky discover a direct correlation between viewer engagement and streaming performance.

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