Akamai Technologies has launched the Akamai HD Network, its next generation video delivery offering and the first platform to deliver HD video online to viewers using Adobe Flash technology, Microsoft Silverlight, and to the iPhone, at broadcast-level audience scale.

The new HD Network combines Akamai’s patented HD EdgePlatform, adaptive bitrate streaming and DVR technology. It supports live and on-demand HD streaming.

It was designed as one, comprehensive HD network reaching multiple playback environments and devices (including Flash, Silverlight, and the iPhone) especially for large-scale broadcasters and film distributors.

According to the press release, the network leverages the following functionalities:

Adaptive Bitrate Streaming – a streaming process that is designed to enable uninterrupted playback at HD bitrates that seamlessly adjusts to fluctuations in available bandwidth
Instant Response – Immediate response to viewer interactions with the video player, including sub-second time-shifting (such as pause, rewind, seek and play commands) video startup times, and seamless stream switching
• HD Video Player – Open, standards-based video player for faster time to market
HD Player Authentication – Authenticates player for all three environments ensuring only authorized players access content

What makes this new HD network unique is that it delivers video from HTTP servers located closest to end users (over 50,000 in 900 networks in 70 countries) minimizing packet loss and maximizing streaming.

“We’re entering a different online world, where many content owners and publishers need to deliver HD-quality video to a much wider online audience, with a higher level of interactivity for consumers. Delivering ‘web-quality’ content to ‘web-sized’ audiences is one thing, but delivering HD-quality content to broadcast-scale audiences is another," said Paul Sagan, President and CEO of Akamai.

The firm says, two key trends have made it necessary to now evolve how streaming media is delivered on the internet. First, online audiences have grown to broadcast scale. Second, those viewers are demanding higher quality content. Studies show that when higher quality video content is offered, viewer engagement time increases. According to Jupiter Research, 60% of regular online video users are less likely to return to a site for video content if the viewing experience is poor.

Supporting this level of traffic requires a global network that can manage millions of simultaneous users streaming very high bitrate content, they claims.

"We are excited to see Akamai’s commitment to HTTP adaptive streaming as the future of online video delivery, as we have worked closely over the past year to build a robust end-to-end media delivery platform with IIS Smooth Streaming and Silverlight," said Steve Sklepowich, director for Silverlight at Microsoft Corp.

"Together, we’ve proven that these true HD experiences can dramatically increase online viewing times for broadcasters,” he added

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