Comcast Expands Their Commercial CDN Offering With Live Linear Streaming Platform
Last May, Comcast launched their commercial CDN offering and since that time has signed up some pretty large content owners, while also expanding their product line. Their latest addition is a new live linear streaming service, announced at IBC 2015. The new platform provides customers the ability to easily turn-up, manage and enable ad or subscription-supported live, over-the-top, full-time channel experiences. Here’s a link to a workflow chart that maps out what Comcast’s solution looks like.
While there are a lot of vendors in the market with platforms for managing over-the-top channels, only a handful truly own an end-to-end ecosystem. Comcast now joins Level 3 and Verizon Digital Media Services, as those who own and operate the entire product line, spanning linear acquisition through distribution and playout. Because of Amazon’s purchased of Elemental, some might add them to the vendor list as well, but they don’t provide linear streaming solutions in the marketplace to the same degree as the others, with a big differentiator being their lack of linear source acquisition capabilities.
A core component of Comcast’s live linear platform to manage the channel metadata and orchestrate workflow is based off of technology from thePlatform, the company Comcast purchased in 2006. thePlatform and it’s core content management and OVP cloud engine supporting both live and VOD workflows, called mpx, which is now part of Comcast Wholesale and it is an integral component of the Comcast Wholesale’s new online video product portfolio. While the live linear platform market is starting to get crowded, Comcast has a leg up amongst most of their competitors since they have been doing linear content aggregation for more than twenty years.
And not just for Comcast or NBC channels, but for many others like the NHL Network, Pac 12, movie networks and the like. Comcast is originating and distributing these live channels over satellite, fiber, and the Internet to other MSOs, MVPDs, and directly to consumers. The benefit of having this experience gives Comcast strong operational capabilities and a wide array of ingest and acquisition possibilities. This makes it really easy for Comcast to pull in the signal and then transcode, package and distribute it. The live linear workflow is in Comcast’s DNA, which isn’t the case with some of their other competitors.
Comcast has also been in the streaming OTT space for years, with their own offering, so they really straddle both sides with experience from the broadcast and Internet worlds. And they have a lot of experience in monitoring video quality, translated from a linear world to a streaming offering. Another strength of Comcast’s platform is the ability they have in being able to turn up customers very quickly. Comcast has over 500 existing channels available in their broadcast operations and origination facilities today and any of those channels can be made available over-the-top within a week. Any feeds not already in Comcast’s facilities can be acquired over satellite, dedicated fiber and contributed over the Internet very quickly including via leading third-party providers like Level 3’s Vyvx, LTN Global Communications, Digital Comm Link, etc. Some large premium networks and broadcasters are already using Comcast’s platform for live linear streams, as well as live to VOD, and it sounds like Comcast will be able to announce who some of these customers are shortly.
Even though Comcast is offering an end-to-end platform and has over 100 POPs in the U.S. for CDN delivery, the company’s platform and strategy is flexible. Content owners can use Comcast for just the video workflow, and then use another third party CDN of their choice. The same goes with Comcast’s player development kit (a component of mpx), which also supports third party players, analytics systems, stream conditioning, metadata, ad decisioning, content syndication rules and content protection. Comcast can provide it as a full turn key solution, or sell it in a modular feature set as a point solution. As for pricing, Comcast says they are very competitive on pricing for live linear workflow as well as delivery and some of the latest broadcasters who have moved over to Comcast’s CDN, have told me their performance for video delivery beats every third-party CDN around, which makes sense considering Comcast owns the last mile.