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Why CenturyLink Bought Streamroot

Jeff Baumgartner
9/11/2019

The OTT landscape is now global. Rather than containing themselves to North America and western Europe, streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+ and Disney+ have worldly ambitions.

However, network quality and capacity isn't equal in all parts of the world, leaving some markets exposed to buffering events and other performance problems that rear their ugly heads during peak traffic hours.

CenturyLink is trying to bridge that gap with this week's acquisition of Streamroot, a Paris-based company that has developed a peer-assisted mechanism that taps into capacity found at the far edge of the network, namely in the end user's connected smartphones, tablets, set-tops, TVs and PCs. Streamroot's platform also uses telemetry data obtained inside the ISP network to help optimize OTT traffic.

Prior to the acquisition announced Tuesday, CenturyLink had already teamed with Streamroot to offload some OTT video traffic during spikes typically caused by popular live-streamed events or the release of a new episode of TV series made available on-demand.

Earlier this year, CenturyLink estimated that its use of Streamroot enabled it to offload about 60% to 70% of CDN traffic during major sporting events such as The World Cup.

Acquiring Streamroot provides CenturyLink with access to some large brands from the European broadcast market and enable CenturyLink to pursue its plans to reach more deeply into eastern Europe and to fuel ambitions in the Asia Pacific and Latin America, Bill Wohnoutka, CenturyLink's vice president, global internet and content delivery services, explained.

"It's where our global customers are going," Wohnoutka said, noting that many countries in those regions have infrastructures that can take advantage of Streamroot's peer-assisted CDN technology, particularly during peak-use periods.

He also said Streamroot presented CenturyLink with the opportunity to buy, rather than build, peering technology that it could hook into its own content delivery network as well as to CDNs operated by others.

"If we would've built this ourselves, we would've built it the same way," Wohnoutka noted. "It's also very difficult to find the people that you need to really rapidly grow a business that's beginning to move incredibly fast in terms of the traffic that is accelerating."

Founded in 2013, Streamroot has managed to build a sizable customer roster during its relatively short life. Examples include public broadcaster France TV, Spain's RTVE, France's Canal+, TF1, Eurosport, Daily Motion and LSD Live (in Latin America).

Performance boost trumps cost savings
Wohnoutka noted that customers that are using Streamroot's technology aren't necessarily tapping in for the sake of cost savings but because they are seeking ways to boost streaming performance.

"That is not where their heads are at," he said. Steamroot's customers are finding their users are abandoning video at peak hours because of video quality. "This is really about arming our customers with a technology to get the best possible user experience at the most difficult time of day...in some of the hardest to reach locations."

Streamroot will continue to support all CDNS and "maintain that openness," Wohnoutka said. CenturyLink is already a Streamroot reseller but Steamroot will continue to move ahead with its own marketing and sales efforts.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. CenturyLink first connected with Streamroot in 2014 as a mentor to the company through the TechStars startup accelerator program.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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