Comcast giving special traffic treatment to HBO, Showtime, Sony? Unlikely, says analyst

An article suggesting that Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) was in negotiations with HBO, Showtime and Sony to treat the broadband traffic of the latter three's new OTT products as "managed services" set off skeptic alarms for one analyst.

The Wall Street Journal said that the streaming services were lapsing into a grey area of the new net neutrality rues, asking for special treatment and fast lanes. However, Streaming Media analyst Dan Rayburn used his blog to effectively poke significant holes in the piece, summarizing the story as "inaccurate."

"The ISPs I spoke to made it clear that they are not in discussions with OTT providers to manage their traffic differently from other content owners or provide them with special treatment of any kind," the analyst wrote.

Rayburn said he spoke to multiple ISPs, which were "confused as to what exactly the WSJ is implying, when terms like 'special treatment' are being used, without any definition of what is 'special' about the treatment. There is also no agreed upon definition of what a 'managed service' is and the article doesn't detail how they define it. They also reference a 'separate lane' within the ISPs network, but there is only one lane into your house on the Internet."

Neither HBO, Sony or Showtime owns their own content delivery network, the analyst adds. They rely on third-party vendors like Akamai, Limelight and Level 3, which already have interconnection deals with large ISPs like Comcast and already have servers inside their networks.

The article, penned by WSJ writers Shalini Ramachandran and Keach Hagey, also purports that media companies feel that the "last mile of public Internet pipe, as it exists today, won't be able to handle the surge in bandwidth use for all the online-video services."

Rayburn takes that argument down, too, noting that the typical streaming video congestion problem isn't taking place at the last mile, but rather access points far outside it.

Finally, he notes, the writers take "until halfway through the piece to mention that no ISP has actually agreed to whatever it is that the WSJ is suggesting content owners want. The article says that Comcast 'wasn't willing to do anything for any one content provider that it couldn't offer to every other company.' So the WSJ is saying that content owners asked for something that ISPs said no to. "

For more:
- read this Wall Street Journal story
- read this Streaming Media blog post

Related links:
Analyst questions reports of 'special treatment' deals between ISPs and streaming video providers
Sony's PlayStation Vue 'just paying for cable over IP,' review says
Report: Apple to share viewer data on new pay-TV service to entice programmers
Report: Apple's pay-TV plan comes into focus, thumbs nose at Comcast

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