Internet TV: Storyline Subscriptions

deeje.com/musings wrote:

Internet TV: Storyline Subscriptions

Do you remember, about ten years ago, we used to talk about the "great jukebox in the sky", where every song ever made would be available online, and playable on a whim? Well, that reality has pretty much come true, with many resources available on the Internet for finding and playing music, and with digital back catalogs getting deeper and deeper making more and more songs available.

The Problem

Well, the same thing is going to happen to TV: every TV show ever made will be available online, playable at a whim’s notice. But unlike music, which for most of its popular life has been the defining "bite sized" media experience, TV content has always epitomized the serial rich media experience.

But TV has always been a bit self-defeating in that regard, with broadcast windows that make episodic TV so ephemeral. Here tonight, gone tomorrow, maybe back in reruns next spring. Secondary distribution mechanisms are starting to fill the gap, but ultimately only complicate the viewing experience. Today, if you want to watch a TV shows that has been on for several seasons, you might need to:

  • Rent or buy DVDs of previous seasons
  • Purchase the first several episodes of current seasons, because they’ve already been broadcast
  • Record the current episodes with your DVR, and save them until you’re all caught up

Then you have to coordinate across all these delivery mechanisms to watch the show in the proper order… What a hassle!

The Solution

There is a better way. More and more, TV shows are being (re)distributed as RSS feeds, which allows for a completely "on-demand" experience. What’s more, the coolest feature of Adobe Media Player, called "Storyline Subscriptions", takes advantage of the reverse chronological order inherent in RSS to deliver every episode of a show, in order, from the beginning, at a pace determined by each individual viewer.

Most video RSS aggregators will pull the most recent episodes of a show, which is great for news and magazine-style shows. But for story-based shows, viewers really want to start from the beginning, in order to follow the story arcs and character developments. When you subscribe to a show in Adobe Media Player, you can choose to either pull the N most recent episodes, or choose to pull N episodes starting with a specific episode, usually the first one. And of course you can change these settings, on a per-show basis, at any time.

storyline.png

What’s more, in storyline mode, Adobe Media Player won’t queue up subsequent episodes until you watch the ones you currently have, so you can watch each show at your own pace and not worry about falling behind or taking up too much disk space.

For Content Owners

Storyline subscriptions have tremendous benefits for content owners as well:

  • As you create your show, you can continue to grow your audience organically, without worrying about leaving new viewers behind.
  • If you’re paying the bills thru advertising, more viewers watching more of your show’s episodes means more impressions and more potential revenue.
  • After the initial subscription, you reduce bandwidth costs because only active viewers receive subsequent episodes.

Because so much video podcasting is news- or magazine-oriented, we couldn’t turn storyline subscriptions on by default for all RSS feeds. But we did define a new RSS extension that allows you to turn storyline subscriptions on by default for your show in Adobe Media Player. Simply add Adobe Media Player namespace and the following to your RSS feed:


<amp:presentAs>storyline</amp:presentAs>

When Adobe Media Player detects this, it automatically starts a subscription to that feed in storyline mode, beginning with the first (last) episode in the feed.

Emerging best practices for mapping TV to RSS

deeje.com/musings wrote:

Emerging best practices for mapping TV to RSS

You’ll see me repeat this over and over again: Adobe Media Player is basically a video RSS aggregator designed for both viewers and creators. Viewers can easily and efficiently find and watch their favorite TV shows delivered across the internet, and content creators can monetize their content delivered to the desktop thru dynamic branding, advertising, measurement, and protection.

We architected on top of RSS because it is the perfect notification and delivery mechanism for serialized content. In terms of implementation, we map the traditional notion of a television "show" to an <rss> element, and each "episode" of a show to an <item> element within the rss. And using the Media RSS specification, each <item> points to media files or AMOD documents that define the orchestration of advertising in and around each episode.

None of this is new, as this is really another way to describe the underpinnings of "podcasting&quot. The real difference is that we now view major broadcasters and prime time content creators simply as podcasters who regularly publish high quality content. Media RSS has become the standard by which television is delivered across the Internet.

We are starting to learn a few things as we push RSS back up the long tail of television towards prime time, and I’d like to share some of them with you now:

  1. FIRST, make sure your RSS feed validates. For instance, proper implementation of GUIDs for the items in your feed is critical for Adobe Media Player to retain state information for your viewers.
  2. Make your RSS feed icon large. Aggregators can use this asset to represent your show in a variety of ways, and larger icons look better in featured areas. FWIW, there seems to be several ways to specify a show icon, and we’d like to simplify our requirements on this.
  3. Add unique thumbnails to each of your episodes. Really try to find thumbnails that capture the essense of each episode. For instance, look at what CBS did for the RSS feed of Star Trek TOS in Adobe Media Player…
    startrek-episodes.png

    If you’re at all familiar with this show, some of these thumbnails will be instantly recognizable! Kudos to the CBS team for putting so much thought into this! You want your content to be instantly recognizable to your audience as well, so take the time to find the right "icon" for each episode.

  4. Consider NOT putting the show name in the title of each episode. LIke Adobe Media Player, all aggregators should be doing all they can to represent the brand of the content, and forcing too much branding to counteract poor aggregator UI design actually detracts from the user experience. In the case above, I’ll be reaching out to the CBS team to see if they’ll make this change to their feeds.
  5. Episode numbers ARE useful at the beginning of each episode title, but repeating the word "Episode" in each title is NOT useful. I’ve seen straight episodic number schemes (1, 2, … n), and I’ve seen season.episode schemes (1.1, 1.2, … 2.1, … n.m), and either is fine for now. Down the road, we’d like to address the notion of "seasons" within the user experience of Adobe Media Player, but I’m not sure if this should be parsed from the episode title or identified using a dedicate attribute of each item. If you have any feedback on this, let us know.
  6. Put dates for each episode. Note that the Star Trek feed has the original broadcast dates! This is fantastic because Adobe Media Player lets you watch shows starting from the first chronological episode. This is invaluable for viewers who are new to your show, or who are catching up… regardless of where you are in your production process, viewers can experience your story arcs as you intended. Most specifically, note that if episodes share the same date and time, we won’t know which order to play them in.
  7. PLEASE add <category> tags at the <rss> level. These will help make your shows discoverable in a variety of environments, including in the "genre cloud" in the Adobe Media Player Catalog.
  8. Finally, consider adding the branding extensions for Adobe Media Player to your existing feed. Other aggregators will ignore this information, and you don’t need to ask your viewers to pick a feed depending on their aggregator preference.

All that said, we’re also continuously learning about how to improve the user experience of Adobe Media Player itself, particularly in regards to presenting show and episode information. If you feel like you need to organize your RSS feed in a "less than elegant" manner in order to achieve a certain user experience within Adobe Media Player, again, let us know

One last note: television-style shows often don’t exist in a vacuum. Within the larger ecosystem of Adobe Media Player, and particularly in the context of our catalog, we define a "publisher" as the entity that controls the copyrights to a show, and a "network" as the brand that distributes a show. Networks appear in our catalog, and publishers are only used within our back-end systems. Sometimes publisher and network are the same entity, and sometimes a publisher has several networks, each with their own shows. It can get even more convoluted when shows are distributed across multiple networks from a publisher, and downright confusing when a publisher uses someone else’s networks. We don’t necessarily have solid solutions on how to simplify things here, but if we collectively need to represent these relationships as metadata in RSS feeds for shows, we’re willing to help figure it all out.

Video overview of Adobe Media Player

deeje.com/musings wrote:

Video overview of Adobe Media Player

Adobe Media Player has its own section Adobe Developer Connection. One of the first articles is “Drilling down into Adobe Media Player features“. Here’s the first video:

Internet TV: Getting a branded desktop video player

deeje.com/musings wrote:

Internet TV: Getting a branded desktop video player

Adobe Media Player includes a feature for content owners called dynamic branding. This is branding that is carried inside your RSS feed and displayed around your content whenever a viewer clicks on your show and/or episodes. The benefits of dynamic branding include:

  • Users only need one copy of Adobe Media Player on their desktop to aggregate all of their favorite Internet TV shows and video podcasts.
  • Publishers can get a branded, immersive experience around their video content without having to build and maintain their own cross-platform desktop players.

In this video, I briefly demonstrate dynamic branding, and also explain how Blip publishers can add branding to their existing shows using the Blip dashboard.

Lots of other video management systems are adding dynamic branding capabilities to their dashboards, such as StreamOS, thePlatform, and Maven. If you’re publishing video today via a video management system provider, ask them about Adobe Media Player integration…

If you happen to be generating your own Media RSS feeds, adding dynamic branding support is easy. First, add the following namespace to your <rss> tag:

xmlns:amp=”http://www.adobe.com/amp/1.0

Then add the following tags under the <rss> tag:

<amp:logo>http://server/path/to/logo.png</amp:logo>

<amp:background>http://server/path/to/background.png</amp:background>

<amp:banner>http://server/path/to/banner-full.png</amp:banner>

<amp:halfBanner>http://server/path/to/banner-half.png</amp:halfBanner>

Here are the details of these branding assets:

  • Adobe Media Player likes a large show logo, upwards of 200×200 pixels. If you don’t specify a logo in our namespace, we’ll try use the <image> tag if available.
  • The full banner should conform to IAB full banner dimensions, 468×60 pixels.
  • The half banner should conform to IAB half banner dimensions, 234×60 pixels.
  • The background image should be 1024×576. Adobe Media Player will automatically apply several filters to this image to make sure that text and controls are legible. Don’t try to line up anything in your background image with the control surface of Adobe MP, as we proportionally scale and crop the background as the suer resizes the window and positioning is no guaranteed.
  • All of these assets can be in common image formats, such as PNG, GIF, or JPEG. Alpha channels are also supported.

Internet TV: Redefining “Media Player”

deeje.com/musings wrote:

Internet TV: Redefining "Media Player"

One of the most frequent questions I get about Adobe Media Player is “Why?”. Why build yet another desktop media player, when the space seems crowded already?

It all began several years ago, when members of the Macromedia Contribute team started investigating a new internet delivery technology called RSS. Unlike HTML, where a viewer manually “goes” to a website via a browser application to “get” content, RSS allows a viewer to “subscribe” to a website via an aggregator application to periodically and automatically “receive” new content as it is posted. If HTML is the equivalent of going down to the local store for a newpaper or video, then RSS is equivalent to having that newspaper or video delivered to your door on a regular basis. RSS started gaining traction with blogging, which is a great way to continuously receive text-based news from specific sources, and then started incorporating multimedia in the form of audio and video podcasting. With podcasting, anyone can now create and distribute their own TV shows and periodic video content. And in theory, with more of the long tail coming online, the distinction between audience <-> remixer <-> creator is truly going to be blurred.

Concurrently, we also started tracking trends in the TV space. The use of DVRs (digital video recorders) in the US hit 20% last year, and the use of VOD (video on demand) hit 30%. Almost half of the US TV-watching population is using time-shifting technologies to watch their favorite TV shows “on-demand”, and that trend is only going to accelerate.

What we realized is that there will be a big confluence of these two trends as major TV broadcasters put more and more of their content on the Internet. Viewers want to engage their favorite video content when and where they like, while content owners large and small still need to pay the bills. And so we began building Adobe Media Player to support both of these goals.

Underneath the hood, Adobe MP is a video RSS aggregator tuned for Flash media. The UI has been designed specifically for on-demand TV-watching use cases, and with specific features for content creators like branding, advertising, measurement, and protection. We’re committed to finding the right balance of convenience, efficiency, and fun for viewers, and monetization capabilities for content owners. We’re committed to supporting the emerging ecosystem of internet TV companies, ranging from video management systems, rich media advertising providers, and hybrid content delivery networks. And this is just the beginning, a foundation on which to build on to leverage the best of Web 2.0 thinking.

As you can see, Adobe Media Player is also challenging the historical notion of the term “media player” itself. When we first started this project, we heard some say that it should just play media files, but we pushed back and said that the biggest problem we saw with first generation media players wasn’t around which media files they played back, but how users got those media files in the first place! Before RSS, viewers had to manually download files, or receive them in email attachments or on disk, and then figure out which media player to use to watch it. With RSS, the general notion of manually receiving content is eliminated, and the details of the media type is masked. Users shouldn’t be bothered with these details… they just want new episodes of their favorite TV shows, and it should just play beautifully on-demand.

So there you have it. Adobe Media Player is more than just a media player, it is a rich media aggregator that is being architected to support the emerging on-demand Internet TV ecosystem.

Earl Greyhounds rock Adobe Media Player sneak peek party @ SxSW

deeje.com/musings wrote:

Earl Greyhounds rock Adobe Media Player sneak peek party @ SxSW

I went to SxSW (Interactive) for the first time this year, for the Adobe Media Player sneak peek events. SxSW itself is a very cool shindig and the vibe is awesome. But the highlight of the trip for me was hearing the band Earl Greyhounds play at Dirty Dog for our sneak peek party.

This power trio from New York just rocked! You can hear them on their MySpace page. Off the bat, my favorite songs from their “Soft Targets” album include “SOS”, “Monkey”, and “Yeah I Love You”.

Here’s the music video for “SOS”:

Upcoming Events

deeje.com/musings wrote:

Upcoming Events

I’ll be speaking at a number of events coming up in the next few months.

NAB

I will be one of “Technology For Worship Magazine” featured speakers at the following seminar:

Successfully Set Up Your Own Streaming Media Solutions in a Worship Environment
Sunday, April 13, 2008, 9:00 am – 5:00

I’ll also be presenting at the New Media 2.0 sessions during NAB:

In-Depth: Flash Media Server & the Adobe Media Player
Tuesday, April 15, 10 am

FITC

I’ll be at FITC Toronto for my first time, April 20-23

FITC.jpeg

Interactive Engagement with Adobe Media Player

Streaming Media East

I’ll be presenting the following session in NYC:

Creating, delivering, and monetizing branded, on-demand video experiences

Securely distributing TV across the web and to the desktop

deeje.com/musings wrote:

Securely distributing TV across the web and to the desktop

Today, TV viewers are turning to DVRs to take back control of when they watch their favorite shows. TV viewers are also trying to find ways to download their favorite shows so they can watch them where they want. Content owners have been struggling to meet their viewers online, to move from traditional TV to Internet TV.

When it comes to supporting Internet TV, it’s already been a very busy year for Adobe’s Dynamic Media Organization (DMO). A major theme for us has been to enable the business of content thru various forms of content delivery and protection. Whether streamed to the web or downloaded to the desktop, Adobe now has a range of products that let you securely distribute your video content conveniently to viewers when and where they want it.

First, we released Flash Media Server 3 earlier this year, which includes dramatic performance improvements and significant security features. Specifically, the SWF Verification and RTMPe features of FMS work in tandem to ensure that your video streams are being securely delivered to your known, good clients. These include your SWF-based players on your site or syndicated to other trusted sites, as well as trusted AIR applications, such as the forthcoming Adobe Media Player.

Another piece of the Internet TV puzzle fell into place this week, when Adobe released Flash Media Rights Management Server. FMRMS is designed to protect video content for download into specific AIR applications such as Adobe Media Player. You can build your own AIR applications to delivery video content thru a variety of paid business models, such as rentals and paid subscriptions. Adobe Media Player supports these models, and also enables you to securely delivery free TV shows with dynamic advertising, such that viewers don’t need to sign up or sign in.

Here’s a simplified graphic that shows how these two server products enable you to deliver and protect your video content:

simplified-secure-delivery-web-desktop.png

Of course, securely delivering video content is only part of the challenge of Internet TV. Providing a convenient user experience is even more important for sustaining the business of content.

Today, content owners both large and small use the power and flexibility of Flash to deliver full-length episodes of their TV shows to the web, and sustain it via advertising. Because of the ubiquity of Flash, its very easy and convenient for viewers to find and watch those TV shows online.

Similarly, Adobe Media Player provides an easy and convenient experience for legitimately downloading free full-length episodes of TV shows, with dynamic advertising that can be customized by the viewer to be more relevant. The dynamic advertising is securely attached to your episodes such that viewers can’t remove or replace the ads, and of course can’t open up any of the local media bits to re-edit, remix, or repost your content elsewhere.

So, whether its streamed or downloaded, Adobe is helping video content owners to sustain their business while providing easy and convenient experiences for TV viewers to watch their content when and where they want.

Adobe Media Player @ The Creative License Conferences

File under: ,

As part of the Adobe CS3: The Creative License Conferences, we’ll be presenting a deeper dive demonstration of Adobe Media Player during the two-day conferences.

LA, June 19 & 20: Renaissance Hollywood

NY, June 25 & 26: Waldorf Astoria

The agenda is too extensive to list here, containing not only general session presentations, but 30 targeted sessions and activities for designers, developers, web professionals, print service providers, video professionals, and professional photographers, PLUS bonus pre-conference tracks with more content, PLUS after-hours sessions and activities, PLUS exposure to peers and solution partners. And if this isn’t enough, all attendees will receive a free two-month subscription to Lynda.com training, as well as $200 off admission to the MAX conference in September, and $400 worth of onOne software and the opportunity to win additional prizes at the conference. We’re also offering a group discount—buy 5 and get the 6th admission free.

Hope to see you there!

Demo of Adobe Media Player for onFlex.org

File under: ,,,,,

Mike Chambers posted an impromptu interview of me over at video.onflex.org:

Deeje Cooley : Adobe Media Player (Philo)

Last week I sat down with Deeje Cooley who gave me a demo of the new Apollo based, Adobe Media Player (code-named Philo).

writeVideo(“rtmp://cp16333.edgefcs.net/ondemand/16333/video.onflex.org/deeje_philo.flv”, true, false, “http://weblogs.macromedia.com/mesh/files/video.onflex.org/deeje_philo.flv”);

You can find more information on the Adobe Media Player on labs.

The sound isn’t great, but you can get a flavor for Adobe Media Player as we walk thru some of the key features we highlighted last month at NAB.  More videos to follow!