When the destructive earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, people around the world were moved to help the disaster victims in any way possible. In the United States, George Clooney and MTV Networks – a division of Viacom – organized the Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief benefit concert. With a goal of bringing together some of the biggest names in music, TV, and Hollywood to help raise money for the people of Haiti, MTV networks wanted to reach as many potential donors as possible.
MTV Networks spearheaded the launch of the event. With plans to broadcast the telethon across all major TV networks and over the web – and to coordinate all of this in a week – the company realized it needed to call upon outside assistance. “We needed to launch the event as quickly as possible so we needed a proven way to distribute television-quality streaming over the Internet to a global audience,” explains Nick Rockwell, EVP and CTO of Digital Technology for MTV Networks.
MTV Networks needed to meet three key requirements to ensure success of the event online:
As a long-time customer, MTV Networks turned to Akamai without hesitation. Not only has Akamai helped deliver some of the largest online events in history, it offers the largest streaming video distribution capacity on the market via the Akamai network. “We knew the Akamai network was the best solution since it takes advantage of the full footprint of Akamai’s HTTP streaming network for scale but also employs innovative adaptive bitrate switching to ensure a consistent and high-quality experience,” says Rockwell.
As a single, unified network for delivering high-quality, large scale events, the Akamai network was perfectly suited to MTV Networks’ requirements. Plus, because the network is HTTP-based, MTV Networks could tap into the massive scale of Akamai’s distributed content delivery network (CDN) at a moment’s notice. With a goal of engaging and entertaining the online audience to prompt donations, MTV Networks wanted to deliver the online event in HD for the best possible viewing experience. In order to stream a buffer-free experience for 90 minutes, MTV Networks decided to take advantage of Akamai’s new HD for Flash product, which offers adaptive bitrate streaming.
Akamai and MTV Networks engaged iStreamPlanet, a trusted HD Network partner, to encode the television broadcast signal into eight bitrates for delivery via the Akamai network. Because iStream- Planet had already tested and implemented the Akamai HD for Flash solution, and had partnered with Akamai for several high-profile and successful events, Akamai knew iStreamPlanet could help ensure a smooth process with the highest quality results. Within 24 hours, iStreamPlanet successfully set up, tested, and launched the end-to-end solution for delivering. “As a company which prides itself on taking a lead role with the latest technology and enabling its customers to have the best quality live web broadcasts, we were thrilled to partner with Akamai’s HD Network to help deliver an event with such great importance,” explains Mio Babic, president and CEO of iStreamPlanet.
A key component of the online streaming video experience was a Flash-based video player that could automatically adapt to the bitrate best suited for each end user.
Akamai collaborated with MTV Networks to build a player that could be easily syndicated and supported the intelligent bitrate switching it wanted to use. Leveraging code provided by Akamai and designed and optimized for the Akamai network, the player detects the speed of each end user’s Internet connection. Based on those conditions, the player automatically delivers the best stream quality, ensuring an optimal streaming video experience for all end users. Moreover, the player incorporates digital video recorder functionality that enables viewers to pause and rewind playback for ultra-fast, responsive time-shifting.
Through MTV Networks, Akamai donated streaming video services across more than 40 individual websites, each of whom then syndicated the player to additional sites. As a result, the same player and video feed was used by some of the largest sites on the Internet, including YouTube, ABC.com, AOL, AT&T Entertainment, Bebo, Bing, Buddy TV, Causecast, Eonline.com, Facebook, Fancast, Gawker, GlobalGrind.com, Huffington Post, Metacafe, MSN, MySpace, NBC.com, Oprah.com, OurStage.com, Rhapsody, Veoh, and VEVO.
Because the video player was designed to provide Akamai Media Analytics functionality, including client-side measurements, MTV Networks could easily access in-depth statistics. These provided insight into video consumption and viewing patterns, such as regional breakdowns, total hours and streams consumed, and partner distribution. Code in the streaming video player also monitors media delivery performance in each individual player being used across the Internet. As a result, MTV Networks was able to track quality-of-service metrics such as buffering and load times, as well as compare data on connection speeds with bitrates consumed. In addition to understanding how end users were consuming the streams, MTV Networks gained insight into streaming and engagement for each site that was syndicating the event.
During the two-hour event, the Akamai network delivered more than 100,000 concurrent streams and nearly 140 Gbps of peak traffic to nearly 1,000,000 unique site visitors. Over the entire weekend, the Akamai network delivered more than 5.8 million high-quality streams, with a majority of end users viewing the online event at higher bitrates, including full HD at 3.5 Mbps. With average play duration exceeding seven minutes, MTV Networks was able to successfully engage the online audience with a high-quality media delivery experience.
MTV Networks used the Akamai network and iStreamPlanet to webcast a high-definition, multi-bit rate HD Flash stream to all of its sites, and to syndicate the Hope for Haiti event across the Internet. “The high-quality online experience complemented the television broadcast across major networks, greatly extending awareness of the cause. By combining the reach of television with that of the Internet, the event has raised $61 million so far.” concludes Rockwell.