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Covid2019 a disruptor for digital content delivery

CDNs have been able to take the load of video but need innovation

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MUMBAI: It's not easy to cope with the rising anxiety and uncertainty while sheltering-in-place. Fortunately, there is a huge amount of content available online that keeps everyone entertained and informed. With the exponential rise in content consumption, the tech teams of over-the-top (OTT) platforms and publishers have taken up important roles to serve consumer needs along with the help of content distribution networks (CDNs). However, the challenges of delivering content have risen during the Covid2019 crisis due to the overwhelming surge in consumption, a panel comprising industry experts during a virtual discussion agreed.

The panelists included Viacom18 Digital Ventures technology and engineering head Mohit Srivastava, EPIC ON COO Sourjya Mohanty, The Indian Express CTO Amardeep Vishwakarma, Asianet News Media and Entertainment assistant director of technology Anoop Mohan, Quintype head of engineering Rashmi Mittal, Snapdeal CTO Prashant Parashar, Simsim CTO Gaurav Kalra, Limelight Networks product management senior director Michael Milligan, VideoTap founder and CEO N Dilip Venkatraman, Limelight Networks India sales director Ashwin Rao and Kavasam Konnect chief information and technology officer Koushik Ramani.

The panel discussion, on the importance of CDN for data and video explosion in the post-Covid2019 world, was organised by Indiantelevision.com and moderated by its founder, CEO and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari. 

Srivastava said that consumption has gone up exponentially both for AVOD and SVOD models on VOOT; the latter has seen really skyrocketing growth.

Mohanty also mentioned that its two OTT platforms have been doing really well. It has witnessed consumption going up 3-4x many days. He also added that along with more consumers, they have received more consumer insights too during this period.  

Vishwakarma also added that traffic has increased 2x across its platforms. Although it's not inclined too much to video, people are consuming available static content on websites. 

Mohan also spoke about a 2-2.5x growth across Asianet platforms. While it serves in seven languages, growth is occurring in each. It has also started producing Covid2019-related content to avoid fake news. 

Mittal also added that the number of page views has doubled for its client publishers. On the other hand, Ramani said that it's leveraging social media platforms more as its OTT platform is not fully launched yet. 

Snapdeal recently entered the video content space. Parashar said that during the lockdown, when non-essentials were not being shipped, it wanted to engage customers and started using video for that. Kalra, too, acknowledged that there has been an impact on the business as commerce is not happening. Hence, its focus has deviated more towards content.

Parashar said that they have to put more efforts to deliver similar quality content at a lesser speed of data used by consumers. He brought up an important aspect that CDNs have not focused highly on mobile devices while Indian consumers mostly consume content on smartphones. According to him, it is the right time for CDN players to innovate on the mobile side of videos and images and optimise for the newer economy in the post Covid2019 world. 

“A lot of time we experience that video delivery is not as optimised as you would expect for mobile platforms. As new content is not being created, content consumption has spread out quite a bit. As a result, it is putting pressure on CDNs in terms of efficiency. Hence, it has become tough managing traffic,” Srivastava added. Mohanty also agreed that this has been a key challenge: reduction of latency and better response time.

Limelight Networks' Milligan noted that although smartphones are heavily dominating the Indian market, the Indian audience is also watching content on connected devices. “It's not only about the mobile experience, but content providers also have to think of connected devices. So, as a content distributor you have to find out how you can give the best experience on both,” he added.

Mohan also revealed that as Asianet users are in tier-III cities and rural areas, where consumers use a lower version of Android, it created a multi-CDN strategy. It reached out to different CDNs to see how it can optimise them and deliver content faster.

However, publishers in the panel said that CDNs have been very helpful to deliver static content during this crisis taking up a lot of load. Their challenge was another: the decline in ad revenue despite growing consumption.

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