NFL Pushes HD Video, With Help From Akamai

The National Football League is increasing the amount of high-definition video that it serves up on, and is relying on Akamai (s AKAM) and its NetSession plugin to ensure viewers get the highest-quality video available. With more HD than ever, the NFL is also reporting that viewership is up, with football fans watching a lot more video than a year ago.

This isn’t the first year the NFL has used Akamai for video delivery, but it’s stepping up the quality of streams available to users and relying on Akamai’s HD Network and adaptive bit rate technology for delivery. The NFL’s streams are therefore able to adapt to network conditions, matching the bandwidth available to send the highest-quality stream to the user. The NFL’s video streams start at 500kbps and ramp up to 3.2Mbps, depending on how much bandwidth is available.

The NFL is also taking advantage of Akamai’s NetSession client to manage video delivery. While the NetSession client has peer-to-peer capabilities, which could lower the cost of delivery by having bits delivered by peers rather than by the CDN, that’s not what the plugin is being used for in this case, according to Akamai. Instead, Reynold Harbin, senior product line director for Akamai, said the NetSession client is used to check the user’s available processing power to ensure that the user’s PC can handle the video it’s requesting.

“What we’ve found is that for high-quality video playback, the user can have all the bandwidth necessary [for the HD stream], but sometimes the hardware they’re on can’t render the video,” Harbin said.

Although the season is still young, the addition of HD video online already appears to be paying off, as the NFL reported that it had its best opening weekend ever, with 22 percent more people visiting than in the prior year. Not just that, but those users are watching a lot more video; the league reported that in the first week, fans watched 58 percent more video than a year prior on the league’s official site.

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