Asia Television Limited (ATV) broadcasts five channels to viewers in Hong Kong and a Cantonese-language subscription television channel to viewers in North America. Established in 1957 under the name Rediffusion, Asia Television was Hong Kong’s first television station, and the first Chinese station in the world.

Asia Television streams large volumes of entertainment and news program videos each month from its website, reaching thousands of viewers. However, the co-location data center that the broadcaster used to host its website and video streaming service wasn’t meeting performance requirements despite the high cost of the data center service—several thousand Hong Kong dollars per month.

Lack of bandwidth and the absence of a content delivery network located close to audiences in different regions meant that viewers were experiencing high levels of latency. Additionally, the data center had limited infrastructure capacity, and Asia Television could only upload a small number of videos for streaming before user response times slowed to unacceptable levels. “The environment was not very stable—we experienced two or three outages per month in 2012, each lasting several hours,” says Fangni Zhang, Manager, New Media. “Overall, the infrastructure could not support our plans to grow our number of online viewers and develop new online businesses.”

Several media companies in Hong Kong were using Amazon Web Services (AWS) and peer recommendations convinced Asia Television to investigate AWS. “Our research also established AWS as a provider of cost-effective, highly available, and strongly performing cloud infrastructure,” says Zhang. “We spent a week testing AWS and found that its performance was very good. We also liked the pay-as-you-go model, which meant we didn’t have to sign contracts or make upfront investments.”

Asia Television wanted to launch streaming video on its website by June 1, 2013 to support a marketing campaign. Engineers migrated the website to AWS and developed a new video streaming application in the cloud using a Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP stack. Both the website and application run in the Asia-Pacific (Singapore) Region. The team started the project in mid-May and finished in two weeks, well before the deadline. “The implementation was much easier than we expected,” says Zhang. “The AWS account team and solution architects helped us troubleshoot problems and find workarounds within a day.”

Asia Television converts its broadcast videos to an MP4 format in-house, and uses its own client to upload the files to the AWS Cloud. When a customer accesses a video, Amazon Route 53 delivers the request to web and application servers hosted on six Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances, and uses Elastic Load Balancing to distribute traffic and optimize performance across the instances.

Amazon CloudFront is used to deliver video content and streaming services to users. Asia Television uses two large Points of Presence (POPs) in the region to improve latency and capacity for Hong Kong viewers. The company relies on Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to run video and program databases that are several hundred gigabytes. “Using Amazon RDS means that we don’t have to spend time administrating the databases,” says Zhong. Amazon CloudWatch monitors the database and other applications and resources in the environment. Figure 1 demonstrates Asia Television’s infrastructure on AWS.

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Figure 1. Asia Television Architecture on AWS

By running its video service on the AWS Cloud rather than its previous co-located data center, Asia Television has increased its streaming performance tenfold, reduced hosting costs by 50 percent, and can scale to support a 150 percent growth in online viewers. “We haven’t experienced lag in video streaming or any downtime since moving to AWS, which improves viewer confidence in the availability of our website and video streams,” says Zhang.

“We completed the proof of concept for the new environment in just one week,” Zhang continues. “We moved the website to AWS and developed and launched a new video application in the second week. The rapid completion of this project has established a benchmark for developing and delivering services to attract more visitors to our website, and potentially create new revenue opportunities.”

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