NFL Taps Akamai To Deliver Higher-Quality Streaming on NFL.com

Today, increasing numbers of NFL fans have access to better Internet connections. To take advantage of that growing base of well-connected fans, the NFL has partnered with Akamai to implement the company’s HD Network throughout its NFL.com video offerings. The Akamai HD Network will make high-quality (up to 3.2-Mbps) online video available to more fans than ever, through NFL.com’s Thursday Night Football streams, highlights of every game, and the new NFL Fantasy Football game.

“Last year, the NFL was getting their feet wet as they were evaluating their strategy and our technology,” says Suzanne Johnson, director of marketing, media entertainment, for Akamai. “This year, the NFL is standardizing on our HD Network technology across their whole site, using everything from soup to nuts.”

The Akamai HD Network for the Adobe Flash platform uses HTTP-based adaptive-bitrate streaming. Video content is available in multiple bitrates, ranging from 500 kbps to 3.2 Mbps, to maximize the video experience for each user based on specific bandwidth availability.

“We have a unique functionality in our HD Network where we can take a stream that’s being input and strip it down to the base, standard stream,” Johnson explains. “We can then wrap it at the edge in whatever format or standard is required by the runtime. It can take the input of a standard H.264 stream, and we can get it prepared at the edge for the iPhone or HTTP standard, whatever is required. That’s a new functionality that we’ve introduced.”

The NFL is also taking advantage of Akamai’s HD Client technologies, including NetSession. By downloading the Akamai NetSession client, fans can access higher-quality content on NFL.com.

“NetSession will look at what’s happening on the user’s machine and take in data around CPU, power, and the capabilities of the machine,” Johnson explains. “The client then feeds that into the player logic so that the player can make better decisions about when to unlock the highest-quality bitrates.”

Akamai’s Media Analytics product will also give the NFL access to QOS information that will offer better insight into the viewing experience on NFL.com, along with performance data that will measure the impact of higher-quality–video delivery on viewership.

“What’s really exciting is the trend that we see around quality this year,” Johnson says. “Everyone’s raising the bar on the quality. Because HD Network is HTTP-based technology, we can support very large audiences, and we’re seeing that more and more people are able to access much higher-quality video. There really is a demand for and an audience for the higher-quality content, and that’s something that I think we’re going to see even more of in the future.”

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