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Optical/IP Networks

Level 3 Sweetens Wholesale Video Offer

CHICAGO -- The Cable Show -- Mention Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT) here and what immediately comes to mind is its notoriety as the CDN for Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and the company taking on Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) in a peering/net neutrality dispute.

But Level 3 is also trying to broaden its wholesale business in support of cable and other video service providers, tying together its resources in a service that is both complete and modular.

That means linking its Vyvx video delivery service, most often used to capture video at live venues such as sporting events, with its CDN, and adding things such as video preparation and usage analytics to offer content acquisition, preparation, publishing, delivery, consumption and post-consumption analytics.

"We are offering everything from creation to consumption, for a TV Everywhere strategy," says Amanda Tierney, Level 3's VP of wholesale market management. "And it's modular, so video service providers can pick and choose the pieces they want to buy from us."

The strategy is explained here in a corporate video.

Key to this strategy for Level 3 is proving how it can make delivering video to any device a simpler and more cost-effective business strategy for its wholesale customers, says Wade Clark, media solutions analyst for Level 3.

That includes encoding the content to match the device to which it is delivered and storing that content in the most appropriate place, whether that is in one of Level 3's supermodes or in edge storage locations on the CDN. "Where the content is stored is, as always, based on requests for that content," Clark says. "We will deliver it off the optimal CDN edge -- typically but not always the closest edge to the customer."

The post-consumption analytics are intended to show the video service provider how many consumers are viewing what type of content, over what type of device. They aren't intended to be a ratings system, per se, although Level 3's wholesale customers can use those as they see fit, including to prove to advertisers how often sponsored content is being viewed, Clark says.

"Cable companies want to remain compelling to their subscribers, who have a lot more video choices now," Tierney comments. "That's where analytical tools which help them understand the behavior of consumers, can be helpful. "

Different service providers will take different approaches to delivering video to TVs, PCs and mobile devices, and the ability to detect and analyze new consumer viewing patterns will inform the way those approaches are designed, she says.

"However they decide to go, we believe we can help them optimize their business case," says Tierney. "We think this is a unique end-to-end offering."

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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