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Paramount delivers premium content to audiences across platforms worldwide, connecting with billions of people—through their studios, networks, streaming services, live events, merchandise, and more.
Industry: Streaming Media, Digital Publishing
Location: Global
Customer since: 2018

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For Paramount Global, innovative streaming products take center stage in its partnership with Fastly

Fastly partners with Paramount Global in its quest for innovation across multiple world-class streaming products.

At Altitude, we sat down to talk with Sean McCarthy, Principal Product Manager, Video Technology Group at Paramount Global about how Fastly powers Paramount Global’s streaming performance while at the same time offering developer tools that assist in building innovative platform products.

Sean highlighted a few benefits of using Fastly:

  • Performance drive: building Paramount’s multi-CDN strategy on top of Fastly

  • Compute capabilities: moving data processing and lightweight ETL jobs to the edge

  • Overall solution provider - it goes beyond just CDN

What made Fastly the best choice for Paramount Global? What business problems are we helping you solve?

When I think of our relationship with Fastly, I think of the word partnership. Prior to partnering with Fastly, we were pretty much a one-stop shop and struggling with one of our vendors. We built our multi-CDN strategy on top of Fastly being 100 percent performance driven.

We try whenever we can to think not so much about the cost of delivery as we do the performance, and luckily, Fastly meets us halfway on both. Fastly came into the mix based on performance, and then we really solidified our use of Fastly when it came to the developer tools. We are avid users of Fastly's APIs for CDN delivery and the real-time logging.

We’ve built a homegrown API that normalizes the orchestration and control of several CDN vendors where we can basically have a one-stop shop to create, modify, purge, and delete CDN configs. Much of that functionality was based on what Fastly exposed at first, and then the other vendors played catch up, and we just made a unified interface.

On the real-time logging side, a lot of our metrics are based on Fastly logging metrics. Things like server TTLB (time to last byte), client TTFB (time to first byte); all of these metrics that Fastly exposes we're now normalizing across some of our other CDN vendor metrics to meet the same definition as the Fastly standard.

Tell us more about Paramount’s multi-CDN situation.

Multi-CDN is a pillar to our strategy. We don't want vendor lock-in. Anytime we launch in a new market, we assess our pool of vendors, pick two, sometimes three, depending on traffic volumes. Fastly is our domestic CDN provider as well as in many geos.

When it comes to performance, what are you seeing in terms of metrics and stats that you could share with us?

When we think about assessing CDN performance, we really look at availability: the ability to deliver any content through the pipe regardless of how long it takes. We look at throughput, we look at TTLB, and we differentiate TTLB from throughput, and we look at TTFB.

Those are our four success metrics, and the way we like to assess the performance of a CDN is always client side. We don't look at what the CDN reports as its performance, based on server TTLB. Instead, we'll download a series of test objects, all sort of different size files from clients. And we look at how those metrics compare to one another between the different CDN platforms. Fastly is always a top provider.

We are a streaming company, so at the end of the day, even these CDN performance metrics aside, what we care about most is rebuffering. All these other things I mentioned – availability, throughput – they're all proxies for rebuffering or video start time.

We want to make sure that when a user clicks play, the video loads as quickly as possible and they don't experience any interruptions. We want the user to get to the highest available bit rate or visual quality as possible and in as quick amount of time as possible. When we think about QOE and quality, it's very video-centric.

How long have you been a customer?

Paramount has been a Fastly customer for four years.

And what's that evolution look like in terms of adapting to Fastly products and services?

We initially thought of Fastly as a CDN provider, and that's evolving. For instance, we are running code at the Edge now, so Fastly is becoming a supplement to our core cloud compute offerings. We're thinking about ways of moving logic off of our client and onto Fastly. Fastly is an overall solution provider for us at this point – it goes beyond just CDN.

What can you tell us about the Edge Compute use cases you're doing with us at Paramount?

We currently have two Edge Compute use cases. We are moving a lot of our data processing and what I'd call lightweight ETL jobs to the Edge. This is comprised of computing performance metrics. It's all stuff that we used to handle in the client itself.

We had JavaScript running across different apps and different sites that would generate performance beacons. But rather than adding that load and complexity to our client, we offloaded it to a Compute@Edge service. We're basically just sending one big payload to Fastly's Compute@Edge offering and generating all of those metrics server-side. And our other use case is around issuing tokens. So essentially taking in a JWT and returning a shot 256 HMAC token.

Can you tell us what it’s been like working with the Fastly team?

The Fastly team has been so great, sometimes they feel like an extension of our team. We're constantly in sync; Fastly knows our operational workflow and understands how we've integrated with Fastly APIs.

When we use our terminology, it's meaningful to them– we don't have to contextualize everything. Fastly has a good understanding of our business goals or our technical challenges, and they've been great partners. We really enjoy working with the Fastly account team.

Tell us about your first Altitude experience?

I came here to give a talk on our Edge Compute use cases. I think the talk went well, but the breakout session on building fast services and video streaming specific problems that customers are facing was really insightful. I think that was probably my favorite part of the conference so far.

Just being able to share ideas and bounce ideas off industry peers has been great. I’ve talked with people from Bell Media, MLB Advanced Media, and New Relic. It’s been a fantastic opportunity to share ideas and get feedback.

If you had more time for your Altitude presentation, what's one more thing you’d like to share?

Stream piracy is a big problem for us, so I think it would be helpful to share the demo of the piracy solution that we built. It's a fairly comprehensive solution that involves an Edge service, real-time logging, and token revocation.

Also, I wish our engineers were able to speak at the conference. I'm a product manager, and although I do get close to the technology, I'm not actually implementing it.

I think the engineers have a certain level of respect for Fastly’s products regarding programming on their platform. It would have been nice to have them come up and talk about their process.

What makes you proud of what you do?

Paramount is fast-growing company, and we're quickly expanding our app globally. As part of that, our team plays a central role in enabling the international expansion of the app by enabling video delivery.

One of the main things that's great about working at Paramount is the people. We have a solid group of engineers. We’re empowered to be creative in our solutions. We don't have top-down mandates for prescriptive solutions and technologies.

Our teams are constantly building new technologies – maybe they don't get adopted by the brands, maybe they do – but we're on the central services team where we're empowered to test new things. Our job is to keep a pulse on the industry, see what works, and what sticks.

How does Fastly keep up with innovating quickly?

Fastly is a platform provider that enables us to quickly build these solutions. This might look like more language support on Compute@Edge so that our developers can start programming right away without having to learn a new language or port existing applications to the Edge. Or just being able to interpret a CDN configuration in a way that's more accessible by a software engineer who doesn't have CDN experience. That's the beauty of VCL compared to some of our other CDN vendors. All of these things are helpful when it comes to innovating quickly at Paramount.

“The Fastly team has been so great, sometimes they feel like an extension of our team. We're constantly in sync; Fastly knows our operational workflow and understands how we've integrated with Fastly APIs.”

Sean McCarthy
Principal Product Manager, Video Technology Group at Paramount Global

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