Is This How Akamai Dies?

Akamai Technologies (Nasdaq: AKAM  ) must be doomed; Conviva just said so. So has BitGravity. So has this guy. And yet most of these arguments are, at best, specious.

Take Conviva. On Monday, this content delivery start-up announced $20 million in new funding and provided exactly zero details about its technology. Well, OK, there was this: "Conviva C3 is the world's first media platform that enables content owners to intelligently and securely manage the distribution of LIVE media and real- time programming online. Built for live media from day one, the platform enables content owners to create a new "virtual living room" audience experience and improve the economics of digital media on the Internet." [Emphasis added.]

And this quote from CEO Carlos Ramon: "Raising such a fast and aggressive round of funding underscores the confidence in our innovative technology platform and the years of tremendous science that led to its development. In a crowded and cynical market plagued by empty promises, this funding bolsters Conviva's staying power and will propel us into the future." [Emphasis added.]

"Virtual living room?" Get out the Buzzword Bingo board. Empty promises? Pot. Kettle. Black.

Has this guy ever heard of Limelight Networks (Nasdaq: LLNW  ) ? If you want to make a case against Akamai, or a case for the video market, at least acknowledge that Limelight streamed live video from the Beijing Olympics and joined Akamai in delivering Web content from the Sino superpower.

Industry watcher Dan Rayburn has Conviva pegged correctly in this blog post, I think: "Conviva won't say how their platform works, what exactly it does, who the customers are, how it is priced, when it will launch, what video formats it will support, how the product/service will be sold or even give real details on what they are going to do with the $20 million that was just raised."

Clearly, Akamai is doomed! Doomed, I say!

Not really living on video
Or not. The trouble with pointing to video and predicting death for Akamai is that video isn't all that easy to monetize. Ask Google. Gootube produces some ad traffic, but it's nothing like what DoubleGoo gets from search.

Rayburn estimates that less than $50 million in annual Web content delivery revenue is derived from live video. My guess is most of that goes to Akamai, via Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) and iTunes, and to Limelight, via MySpace, Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Xbox Live, and Netflix's (Nasdaq: NFLX) Watch Now. 

How bad is it for Akamai to see Limelight pull in so many wins? Bad. But slower growth for the media and entertainment segment is already cooked into Akamai's full-year projections. We also know from management that media and entertainment accounts for roughly 40% to 45% of the business.

So while Conviva, BitGravity, and even Limelight, Level 3 (Nasdaq: LVLT  ) , and AT&T (NYSE: T  ) are betting entirely on video when it comes to content delivery, Akamai is diversified. I call that smart. It's also a competitive advantage in winning business from cloud-computing upstarts who are dealing in transactions rather than video.

Akamai has faced a flood of competitors before. Most of them died when the dot-com bubble burst. Now we have a flood of new ones and, once again, the mighty megaphones say it's the end of Akamai. Let them. History has a way of repeating itself.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of Akamai and Google -- and Google's 2010 LEAP options -- at the time of publication. When not typing up articles for Fool.com you'll find him picking growth stocks for Motley Fool Rule Breakers, which counts Akamai and Google among its holdings. Here's how to try the service risk-free for 30 days. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy didn't mind when Netflix killed the video star. Radio is more to its liking anyway.


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  • Report this Comment On August 28, 2008, at 3:58 PM, foolfanuno wrote:

    I think that we have a very competitive market here, as you say, one where cost is a major issue. Companies that have had multiple rounds of funding and are still not profitable of course are vulnerable. But, I wouldn't group them all together that way. I recently watched the fastcompany.tv interviews with the co-founders of BitGravity, their technology seems to not have the huge server costs associated with Akamai. Limelight just finished the Olympics, where the complaints were more about the content and Silverlight, not the CDN. Akamai has the market share and is the target for their competitors, sure. I think that in the CDN market, where innovation is key, Akamai is falling behind, diversity in offerings or not. Let's see where we are in a year..Sorry if this rambles, it is a fascinating market to watch as it develops..

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