A Digital Video Inflection Point

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to speak about the digital video landscape at conferences with BeetTV, VideoNuze, and Brightcove, and I wanted to share some observations.

Digital video is experiencing an unprecedented outpouring of attention, innovation and creative energy. Even with the challenges that come with any emerging business opportunity, there are many reasons why digital video is at an inflection point and poised for extraordinary growth. Here are five:

1. Consumer behavior is changing in fundamental ways. Individuals are being empowered with devices, like tablets and gaming consoles, which offer the ability to more easily consume media. Over three-quarters of US adults will watch video monthly by 2014, and professional content consumption is currently growing at three times that of user-generated content. Markets respond to consumer-led trends, and this one shows no sign of slowing down.

2. The critical path items for digital video are known. Recently one of the largest global media companies told us that they employ five engineers for mobile video delivery for every one engineer they employ for desktop video. That 5-to-1 ratio isn’t scalable or sustainable. While all critical path items are not yet solved, hurdles, like device fragmentation, improving user experience, and developing better metrics to buy and prove the value of video advertising are being tackled actively.

3. Monetization possibilities are evident and evolving. In a recent survey, consumers between the ages of 15 and 24 — tomorrow’s mainstream — were the most likely to engage with digital video advertising, suggesting that individuals are growing increasingly comfortable with ads while watching TV on desktops and devices. Digital video ad loads are still small relative to TV, pointing to a monetization multiplier effect as more professional content comes online. A recent study also shows the growing popularity of paid media consumption on tablets: 18% of consumers use tablets for viewing paid video content, up from 11% a year ago. We are heading toward a perfect storm of monetization opportunity.

4. Major programmers and operators are leaning forward. Large media companies are motivated by consumers’ desire and ability to access content in new ways, and are responding with innovative tools like the Xfinity App for iPad. For several major upcoming sporting events, you¹re going to see creative partnerships between broadcasters, distributors and Adobe that allow viewers to access content (live and VOD) across different platforms and device types.

5. Advertising Follows Engaged audiences – and Digital Video Engages. Proprietary research from Adobe Auditude shows that mid-roll video ads, the most engaging commercial position, easily outperform completion rates of pre-rolls and post-rolls. With an 87% completion rate, mid-rolls are performing close to 30% better. Professional content with engaging, TV-like ad experiences represents tremendous opportunity. The creative possibilities for better digital video and mobile advertising experiences are endless, and exciting.

To position Adobe’s customers on the leading end of these evolving trends, we are thrilled to be continuing our work building Project Primetime. Adobe’s Project Primetime helps media companies bring their linear, live and VOD content online to any connected device with greater revenues from ads and subscriptions. By combining Adobe’s streaming, protection, advertising and analytics technologies, Adobe is in a unique position to address the most significant challenges that will enable the transformation of digital video.

The Impact of the Flash Player Unpublish Announcement on Android Video Delivery

As announced last fall, although Flash Player for the Android mobile browser will not receive any further version updates, it remained available in the Google Play Store. This week we announced Flash Player for the mobile browser will be unpublished from the Google Play Store.

Does this mean Adobe is not committed to video on mobile devices? Absolutely not. We continue to innovate and solve mobile video fragmentation challenges. Specifically, on Android, we solve this with Adobe AIR, with high-end video features such as Adobe Access DRM, and frequent new releases with new video features. In addition, we introduced “Project Primetime”, focusing on solving video fragmentation and monetization challenges across desktop, mobile and digital home.

We made the decision to discontinue support for Android mobile browser because of two reasons: 1) Premium experiences on mobile devices are typically being delivered through apps and 2) Mobile websites mostly rely on HTML5 based video delivery.

What does the mean for you if you use Flash Player on Android for mobile browser video delivery? First, existing users can continue use as is. Android market unpublish does not mean Flash Player will be uninstalled from devices. Devices with Flash Player already installed will continue to receive security updates. Second, you should develop a migration plan. New users will not be able to download Flash Player and install to their mobile browser.

Adobe’s solution for video delivery to mobile devices is centered on enabling apps. As an immediate future-proof migration path, Adobe AIR provides the same advanced Flash based video features, which means no changes to your content protection or video delivery infrastructure. AIR enables advanced video features for playback on Android 2.2+ devices, including Adobe Access DRM, live support, and adaptive streaming. Adobe is fully committed to further develop and support Adobe AIR on Android. Adobe AIR does not rely on the in-browser Flash Player and is not impacted by the unpublish change.  Popular AIR video application examples include WatchESPN, iTV, and Snagfilms.

To learn more about Adobe AIR based video delivery, read the Adobe AIR mobile video delivery guide.

(Portions of this page are reproduced from work created and shared by Google and used according to terms described in the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License.)

Adobe Media Server 5 Professional and Adobe Access 4 Now Available

In May, Adobe introduced Adobe Media Server 5 and Adobe Access 4, along with Primetime Simulcast. Today, we’ve made Adobe Media Server 5 Professional available through Adobe, selected resellers, and Amazon Web Services. This initial release, when combined with Adobe Access 4, allows media companies to stream protected, studio-grade content using a single digital rights management (DRM) workflow across desktops, connected TVs, tablets and smartphones, including iOS and Android devices. Adobe Media Server 5 offers expanded streaming protocol support for publishers to reach the broadest possible audience via HLS, HDS and RTMP. In addition, Adobe committed to supporting MPEG DASH in the future.

Dynamic and offline preparation of premium video content to be streamed using HTTP and protected with Adobe Access helps simplify workflows and lower storage costs for secure delivery of video to multiple screens. Also available today, the Adobe Access library for Apple iOS allows premium video developers to build the same trusted Adobe DRM capability they use for their desktop apps directly into their apps for distribution on Apple’s App Store.

Adobe Media Server 5 Professional is initially available on Linux with the remainder of the Adobe Media Server product family and supported platforms expected to ship this fall. See more information about Adobe’s premium video offeringsDownload Adobe Media Server and Adobe Access tools.

Primetime Simulcast Helps Bridge TV and Digital Ads

We all sense it, and the numbers support it. By the end of 2014, 200MM U.S. Internet users (76%) will regularly watch video online (source: eMarketer). Further, the number of mobile videos viewed by consumers has already grown at an impressive clip in the last year, and is forecasted to increase 160% in 2012 (source: Nielsen).

Audiences are increasingly viewing TV content on more devices, but broadcasters and network operators are challenged to evolve their business models fast enough. Media company customers tell us every day about their frustrations attempting to deliver and monetize content through IP-connected devices. Device fragmentation, multiple streaming protocols, different encryption methods, difficulty in inserting mid-stream ads, and the need to build players for multiple devices all contribute to higher-than necessary operating costs and a poor viewing experience for video audiences.

Today, in an industry-first, we announced Primetime Simulcast as a new advancement to Project Primetime. As media companies broadcast their linear content, Primetime Simulcast provides a single end-to-end workflow that enables them to simultaneously deliver that same content to connected devices everywhere while seamlessly replacing ads in the broadcast stream with dynamically inserted ads across desktop, iOS, and Android platforms. With this announcement, we also unveiled Adobe Media Server 5 and Adobe Access 4 to give media companies a single video publishing and DRM workflow that reaches 98 percent of desktops and all iOS, Android and connected TV devices. In addition, Adobe unveiled the next version of Adobe Auditude to more easily insert and measure online video ads.

As media companies deliver on the multi-screen promise to their audiences, Adobe is proud to help them increase revenue and decrease operating costs so that they can build effective businesses in digital video and improve the viewer experience. To explain Primetime Simulcast further, Ashley Still, director of product management at Adobe, walks you through the latest move forward for Project Primetime and demonstrates how these improvements allow media companies to advance professional video for publishers, advertisers and consumers.

If you’re at the Cable Show and want to see a live demo of Project Primetime or HLS Streaming with Adobe Media Server 5 and Access 4, stop by and see us at Elemental’s booth #2253.

Flash Media Server 4.5.2 Released with Robust HTTP Streaming Failover

Version 4.5.2 of Flash Media Server is now available. Besides numerous bug fixes, it includes a major improvement – robust HDS/HLS failover for origins.

It’s not simply a “good-to-have”, but a “must-have” feature for reliable HTTP streaming deployments. The key issues it addresses are liveness and dropout situations.

Liveness is a server-side situation in which a packager advertises a stale bootstrap (that is, a stale view of a live stream).

Dropout is a server-side situation in which a packager has gaps in its bootstrap (that is, gaps in its fragment list).

Flash Media Server 4.5.2 introduces the following new features to address this:

Best-effort fetch

Best-effort fetch enables the OSMF and iOS video players to continue playback as normally as possible in the presence of short-term liveness and dropout problems on the server-side.

The OSMF 2.0 player adds client-side robustness by supporting best-effort fetch. Specifically, when best-effort fetch is enabled on the server, OSMF 2.0 attempts fetches for fragments that have not been advertised in the bootstrap, but are expected to be present.

For iOS Video players, FMS 4.5.2 enables best-effort fetch for HLS as well.

Control plane application

To implement HTTP Streaming failover, it’s now possible to write a client application that manages the state of events and streams by using a set of REST-based control plane APIs. Control plane is a router term and in effect, that is what your client application does through these APIs.

You can find more detailed information in the FMS failover documentation.

HTTP failover is an absolutely critical improvement for more reliable workflows, therefore Flash Media Server 4.5.2 is an exciting new release for everyone with HTTP streaming deployments.

Download the Flash Media Server 4.5.2 upgrade.

New revenue opportunities for media companies and advertisers as similarities between broadcast and digital video advertising grow

Today, at the NAB Conference in Las Vegas, we released a study highlighting key trends in online ad engagement and monetization within digital video content. Among several important insights, strong user ad engagement across connected devices shows that online video ad viewing within professional content mirrors that of traditional broadcast television.

Online mid-roll ads, which are much like traditional TV commercial breaks, outperform pre-roll ads by almost 30 percent, suggesting that viewers are engaged by a more TV-like ad experience online. Similarly, more than 5 video ads are served during long-form, professional content. Judging by the 70 percent completion rate of these ads, viewers are more willing to watch ads through their entirety in exchange for the professional content they desire. Live content continues to drive higher engagement rates, at 85 percent, when compared to video-on-demand content.

The next five years will bring a dramatic shift in the media landscape affecting all constituents – consumers, media companies and advertisers – as digital video viewing habits evolve, partially driven by the proliferation of connected devices. Nearly 100 million adults, 48 percent of all adult internet users, will use an internet connection to watch TV programs in the next three years. Over the same period of time, two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video, and serving ads into mobile video will become a critical revenue opportunity for publishers. From a video advertising perspective, this report showed engagement with TV-like ads on mobile devices had the highest engagement rates at 94%.

The results of the report demonstrate the revenue opportunities for media companies and advertisers as they take greater advantage of professional content online. If you are at NAB this week, stop by our booth (2624 South Hall), where we are demonstrating Adobe’s Project Primetime, our solution for turning linear content into seamless, TV-like experiences across IP connected devices by integrating Adobe’s publishing, advertising and analytics capabilities.

Adobe Video Solutions Team at NAB

The video solutions team is excited to be in Las Vegas for the NAB event from April 16th to the 19th.

We’ve made some significant efforts to reduce fragmentation and provide customers the best tools for publishing, protecting and monetizing online video to multi-screen devices. At this year’s NAB, we’ll be particularly emphasizing our recent Project Primetime announcement, which focuses on helping content creators get their premium video online, with seamless ad insertion and analytics.  Additionally we’ll be showing protected HLS and HDS HTTP streaming to the iPad and Galaxy Tab.

Come visit our booth to say hello, ask questions, and see our amazing streaming products and demos including speak peeks into our recent CS6 Production Premium announcement.

Co-existence, Not Cannibalization

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of sharing the stage at Adobe’s Digital Marketing Summit with Prateek Alsi from Time Warner Cable Media. In a fireside chat format (which seemed a bit out of context because it was 70 degrees in Salt Lake City this week!), we explored the state of digital video.  As you know from your own media consumption habits (or watching any child with an iPad or smartphone), online video viewing is growing. Most market research shows that over the next 5 years the number of people watching online video could grow as much as 50% and represent up to three quarters of all internet-enabled users. A lot of this increased appetite for digital video is fueled by the proliferation of connected devices – smartphones, tablets, connected TV’s and gaming consoles. Connected devices will become as ubiquitous as TV’s in the house.  So, one may think that broadcasters, operators and programmers feel threatened by this trend.  Quite the contrary. Most industry folks that I talk with, including my very knowledgeable fireside co-presenter, or clients that we work with, like Major League Baseball, are embracing the trend and charting strategies to take advantage of the opportunity. Those strategies include one that I am particularly fond of – providing access to and dynamically inserting video ads into content on any connected device.

There is a good reason why they are and should be embracing this trend. Online video viewing will not be at the expense of TV. It’s complementary. Total media consumption is growing and will continue to grow as it becomes more efficient and convenient for a viewer to access content where, when and how they desire. Simply said, TV (linear) and digital video viewing is about co-existence, not cannibalization. Given that fact, there are tremendous opportunities for content owners and distributors to better engage and monetize their audiences. And, this is where Adobe is focused.

There are a number of challenges to be addressed in this co-existence strategy, like cross platform measurement, multi-channel ad buying, cross-platform ad experiences, and improving user experience across devices, but we’ll leave those topics for another time. Until then, let the cross-channel collaborative thinking begin.

Adobe Access – A Single DRM Workflow

We recently announced the upcoming availability of Adobe Access (formerly Flash Access) DRM protection for native iOS applications. So what does this mean for your workflow?

You can now finally reach a broad range of destination devices with a single, simple workflow, including Windows, OSX, iPad, iPhones, iPods, hundreds of Android smartphones and tablets (Android 2.2+), and televisions, including Samsung Smart TVs, TIVO and LG devices, and soon many more as part of project Primetime.

It not only saves you costs, but also provides a simple, robust DRM workflow, with a single content protection scheme.

Not convinced how this will work? Here are the steps.

1)   Real-Time packaging and protection of H.264 source files with Adobe Media Server

2)   HTTP delivery to target platforms (HLS to iOS, HDS to other devices)

3)   License acquisition from a single Adobe Access server, no matter what the playback platform is

As part of Project Primetime, Adobe is focused on solving the fragmentation challenges video distributors are confronted with in 2012. This is the first step to provide a secure end-to-end video delivery workflow

Confession of an Ad Guy

I have a confession to make. I’ve been in the digital ad business since 1999 – a long time by internet standards – and my entire perspective on what makes the digital world go round has been advertising. The reality, especially in digital video, is that is wrong.

I didn’t realize the challenges until I became the CEO of Auditude and was hit smack in the face by the many hurdles limiting our customer’s ability to monetize their content – well before an ad is sold, trafficked, or served. In fact, there is a lot of work that goes into creating and serving up the content before you can even think about monetizing it with ads – and if the ad guys like me aren’t working with their content counterparts – the opportunity that online video advertising represents will never come to fruition.

My point is – it’s time for the digital industry to break out of its silos. Media companies and publishers have been forced to piece together best-of-breed point solutions, make their own investments in technology to fill the gaps and/or build the bridges, and then hope their partners work together. This has made it inefficient and difficult for media companies and publishers to maximize the value of content they want to bring online – putting them at a huge disadvantage in a world of disruption.

This is the exact problem Adobe addresses with the announcement of Project Primetime.   By seamlessly combining publishing, advertising and analytics into a single platform, many of the inefficiencies mentioned above are addressed. Project Primetime breaks down the silo’ed walls that have existed to help media companies and publishers more efficiently and effectively deliver and monetize their digital content across connected devices.

When I shared this vision with a room full of digital advertising executives yesterday at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, there was much agreement with the challenges in bringing more digital content online and there was great positive response to the Project Primetime vision and demo we shared. From an advertising perspective (here I go again with my advertising-centric perspective :)), the benefits include:

  • A better viewer experience, which aids content and ad engagement
  • More scalable deliver of ads to connected devices
  • Combining content and ad analytics to provide revenue-based insights

In less than 4 months since announcing its acquisition of Auditude, Adobe has begun to deliver on an integrated vision it is uniquely positioned to solve; moving swiftly into helping monetize content and delivering a platform that will benefit those companies looking to bring more content online.