The competition to serve Netflix's (Nasdaq: NFLX ) streams is getting fierce.
Level 3 Communications (Nasdaq: LVLT ) announced this morning that it has been selected to be a primary content delivery network (CDN) for Netflix's fast-growing streaming service.
Over the next two months, Level 3 will begin stocking its servers with Netflix's digital catalog, which has grown to 20,000 titles. Level 3's streaming to Netflix subscribers will kick in come January.
It's important to point out that Level 3 will be a primary network and not the primary network. Akamai and Limelight will continue to be Netflix partners, making the real winner here -- quite frankly -- Netflix itself.
It was back in March when it was announced that Akamai would be the primary content delivery network. However, StreamingMedia.com's Dan Rayburn also reported -- before the deal was even made public -- that Akamai was receiving preferred status because it would be offering ridiculously low prices through at least the first few months of the deal.
So here we are, several months later, and folks are surprised that Netflix has moved on to the next CDN that's likely coming in with loss-leader pricing to nab a sizable chunk of the Netflix account?
I should also point out that it was Rayburn who correctly reported earlier this week that Akamai was about to lose its status as the only primary provider for Netflix. In short, the guy knows his stuff.
In the end, I can't be the only one concerned about the cutthroat nature of the CDN industry. Akamai's stock has roughly doubled over the past year as the undisputed leader of this growing niche, but margins will continue to be pressured as long as there's always a hungry upstart out there with a server farm and the ability to withstand ridiculously low bandwidth rates.
I realize the market's quick to tap Level 3 as a winner today -- and Akamai and Limelight as losers -- but the only real winners here are Netflix and its subscribers.
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