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Streaming Media East 2008: Day 1: AT&T is Back in the Video Streaming and CDN Game

AT&T used a portion of its demo room time at today's Streaming Media East 2008 in New York to tout its expansion into the streaming Content Delivery Network space. To help them out, AT&T brought in a heavyweight customer, Forbes.com which uses AT&T Enterprise Hosting at AT&T's Internet Data Center in New York.

"We are satisfied with our services from AT&T, including AT&T's Intelligent CDN," said Michael Smith, Forbes.com VP & General Manager of Operations. "We have video studios in New York, San Francisco and Hong Kong, where we create content, and we serve up over 2,500 stories per day. For us, improved speed equals improved response time for site users, which then correlates to an increase in visitors but also means page view stickiness due to ease of use."

"Forbes is famous for ranking people," Smith said. "When we release our lists, we get more traffic than the SuperBowl site does on SuperBowl Sunday, since we include billionaires on our wealthiest 100 people list from around the world. Besides the wealth list, launched in March and hosted on AT&T's Intelligent Content Distribution Service (ICDS), Forbes also launches its Celebrity 100 List in June.

"AT&T's Intelligent CDN handles our traffic surges," said Smith, "which is important for formal launches such as the lists, but it's also becoming more important for the video side."

When it came time for questions from the audience, an obvious one was first up.

"What about the translation for smaller businesses?" a session attendee asked.

"We have customers that range from large customers to very large ones," said Michael Weinstein, AT&T's ICDS Product Director. "Just because you're small, doesn't mean you won't expect the same quality. Every customer gets same level of quality and the advantage of the tools that are created for large companies."

Forbes' Smith agreed.

"Our sister companies don't need to parlay, when they call in for service, that they are a sister company of Forbes, which tells us the service is equal across the board for our sites," said Smith, adding that "services can be commodity, but we find that one or two key people in customer support can make a difference. Greg, one of the engineers that work with us from AT&T, will answer questions within the hour that are important to our business models. For instance, if a board member asking how many caching locations we have in Asia - no matter of what time of day or night - we get very quick response."

"Our developers are available for customers to talk to, which makes our support model robust," the AT&T representative added.

Smith also said, as policy, that they have other vendors they also have service agreements with.

"AT&T is our one-stop shop but we also have a backup (a secondary vendor) for every process," Smith said. We use those secondary vendors for testing of our site, but they are there in case we need them."

When asked about the number of customers the AT&T streaming service - which has been launched several times, including 2000 and 2006, to limited success - has, the AT&T representative demurred.

"How many customers we have for ICDS?" Weinstein said. "We don't give that information out, since that's proprietary information. We have a number of customers, many whose names you may know."

Streaming Media East 2008 continues until Wednesday, April 21, at the Hilton New York.

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