Growth Spurt: CDN Year in Review
Online video continued to grow in 2007, and CDNs were there to reap the benefits.
Without a doubt, 2007 was a big year for online video. We saw users consuming more content, more often, for longer periods of time, at higher bitrates, and on more devices. While many companies in the online video ecosystem—from content publishers to encoding houses, not to mention software and hardware vendors—benefit as a result of this continued adoption, probably no single segment of the industry benefits more than the content delivery networks that deliver most of the video we see on the web today.
Fifteen years after some of the first CDNs were established to focus on the task of helping to deliver video, the CDN market continues to grow and shows no signs of slowing down. Less than 2 years ago, I was tracking fewer than 10 CDN providers in the market. Today, I’m tracking more than 30, and the list continues to grow each quarter. In fact, it is growing so fast that I had to create a dedicated URL on my blog (www.cdnlist.com), just to be able to point people to all of the names of the providers. (See the sidebar "Content Delivery Networks" for the complete list as of Feb. 1, 2008.)
Aside from the influx of many new providers in the market last year, we also saw a huge surge in the venture capital money that was invested in many of these CDN companies. While the number of players in the space and the money they raised created the most buzz, there also was also a lot of talk about "price wars" in the industry and the real questions of what the size of the CDN market really is and who has how much share in the market.
The CDN Business in 2007
While I’ve seen a few reports estimating the CDN space at nearly a billion dollars in 2007, the reports I have seen do not break out what specific content delivery products they are talking about and how those numbers were calculated. To me, delivering ads and web-based images is not the same as delivering video. Yes, it all falls under the umbrella label "content delivery," but today, that term is so generic that it seems to encompass just about every form of data. I define the market based on video content delivery only. Based on the public and private data in the market, last year the CDNs did a combined $450 million to $500 million in revenue for video delivery.
While the overall CDN revenue number is much larger for all forms of content, the $450 million to $500 million number is for the outsourced delivery of video in the U.S. market and is specific to video delivery, be it streaming, progressive download, live, or on-demand. While not all of the companies in the space provide public data on their revenue, many of them tell me off the record what they are billing, or I have other data to know their revenue. In these cases, I have grouped some of those companies’ revenue together in the list below so as not to expose data they have given me privately.
- Internap—With the data that’s available, we can extrapolate a run rate of about $24 million for 2007, nearly all of which comes from the U.S.
- Limelight Networks—Estimated to have done about $105 million for 2007; I estimate more than $95 million of that to be from the U.S.
- Akamai—I estimate that about $350 million of the company’s approximately $625 million in revenue comes from its CDN offering. What percentage of that $350 million is specific to video and comes from the U.S. market is up for debate, but I estimate it to be about $300 million.
- Level 3—The company didn’t do much in the way of video delivery in 2007—only about $2 million—since its streaming product didn’t launch until the end of the year, although its CDN product for video downloads has been around for about half the year.
- VeriSign—While I don’t have exact numbers for VeriSign, if we take the European business out of the picture, I estimate the company’s CDN revenue in the U.S to be about $8 million for the year, the majority of which was P2P-based from the Kontiki product line. (In February 2008, VeriSign announced it will be selling off all of its "non-core business," including its video CDN division.)