As Canada's leading content creation company, Bell Media delivers media to 22 million customer connections within more than 8 million Canadian households.
Industry: Streaming Media, Digital Publishing
Location: North America
Customer since: 2016
We spoke with Roy Hasanizadeh, senior media technology analyst, and Adrian Loree, media technology analyst, who are both part of the Bell Media video delivery pipeline team. They shared how Bell Media relies on Fastly to scale on demand, so customers have a flawless experience under any circumstances.
What made Fastly the best choice for Bell Media?
The video delivery pipeline team is responsible for sourcing, transcoding, and delivering content to all Canadians, consistently and smoothly. Their biggest challenges are traffic spikes—and the slowdowns and server failures that could happen as a result. The team's most important job is ensuring that traffic spikes don't compromise the quality of the content delivered to Bell Media customers.
Bell Media's customer base keeps expanding, which began to create very high traffic spikes for video delivery. According to Hasanizadeh, "We knew we needed a new vendor to address our growing capacity needs, and after a proof-of-concept, we knew Fastly was our choice. And we've been thrilled with it."
How has Fastly helped Bell Media provide a consistently excellent user experience?
Hasanizadeh and Loree mentioned several ways that Fastly has helped Bell Media stay fast, agile, and responsive to customer needs.
"Fastly allows us to control how we direct our traffic to different sites, so we can balance and optimize network availability at each site," Loree said. Bell Media can divert traffic between public and private CDN nodes to maintain a portion of traffic on each. Bell Media also uses the programmatic edge at Fastly using VCL, so it can expand the capacity of its network and manage traffic for its origin servers.
With VCL at the edge, it's easy to roll back a change. A propagation time of mere seconds ensures that whatever change made the configuration unacceptable reverses quickly. According to Loree, "Our team really enjoys working in VCL. They have the freedom to build out what they want, then fail forward or fail back changes quickly if needed, so there's no negative impact on customers."
Fastly streaming logs aggregate essential information for identifying what could be causing a problem for an individual customer. "The details we can pull from Fastly streaming logs provide very important details about what customers are streaming, so we can bucketize those requests and expose problematic areas based on those buckets," Loree said. Logs lead them to discover the content they're playing, the format it is, whether it's a video or audio fragment, so they know where to look and can remediate quickly.
How has that benefited your customers?
Bell Media's customers expect a high-quality, seamless user experience, and that's precisely what Fastly enables them to deliver. According to Hasanizadeh, "Since starting with Fastly, we've significantly improved our first-byte response time. For a user, that reduces the video startup time and the likelihood of buffering."
If Bell Media is having issues with a particular site, end users will never know. Fastly ensures the resilience of its streaming service, regardless of what the video pipeline delivery team is dealing with behind the scenes.
What's it like to work with Fastly?
Having a reliable partner in Fastly support has also helped Bell Media ensure that customer experience is never degraded due to network problems. Hasanizadeh told us, "The Fastly team is very responsive. Any problems that come up are addressed very quickly."
The Bell Media and Fastly teams stay in frequent contact via Slack, and not just for network problems. As the video pipeline delivery team continues to improve Bell Media's service, they can reach out to Fastly support with questions or just to get advice. "Fastly's team is very willing to support us when we want to work on changes in the VCL. They're always there to support us in what we need," said Loree.
Where do you want to go next with this platform?
Moving code to the edge via Fastly has helped increase delivery speed. Loree explained, "We found some under-performant code in our backend service, and we were able to leverage Fastly to move that code to the Fastly Edge and expedite delivery of video content to customers." This move also allowed Bell Media to reduce traffic to the origin to make origin servers available for other uses. "We hope to leverage more of that ability to move code into Fastly, whether it be through the VCL or Compute, to reduce traffic to our origins," Loree added.
Bell Media has also started using Fastly's Compute to deliver live video. After that success, the team plans to expand their use of Compute into more areas of video delivery.
"Since starting with Fastly, we've significantly improved our first-byte response time. For a user, that reduces the video startup time and the likelihood of buffering."
Senior Media Technology Analyst
"We found some under-performant code in our backend service, and we were able to leverage Fastly to move that code to the Fastly Edge and expedite delivery of video content to customers. We hope to leverage more of that ability to move code into Fastly, whether it be through the VCL or Compute, to reduce traffic to our origins."
Media Technology Analyst