Adobe Primetime Continues to Drive TV Everywhere Momentum

Today we are announcing some great momentum for Adobe Primetime PayTV Pass (formerly Adobe Pass), as well as for the overall industry movement of TV Everywhere. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (TBS, Inc.) is the latest Adobe Primetime customer delivering TV across screens as a leader in driving TV Everywhere adoption. To date, TV Everywhere has experienced bursts of success with large scale events like the Olympics and March Madness, but there has not been a critical mass of everyday use. That is now starting to change with more premium content coming online (both live linear and VOD), an increasing shift in viewership from traditional TV to online, and greater opportunities for content owners to monetize those online views thanks to innovative technologies such as Adobe Primetime.

In comparing the first half of 2013 with the same period last year, Adobe Digital Index has seen a 400% increase in authenticated streams, and the total number of Adobe Primetime PayTV Pass-enabled websites and apps has doubled across devices from 50 to more than 100. Online video consumption habits are definitely changing given the ever expanding breadth of devices and platforms – with tablets alone accounting for a 150% increase in video starts from Q2 2012 to Q2 2013. Web, iOS, and Android still represent the bulk of consumption, but other connected devices such as Xbox, Roku, Apple TV, and Smart TVs are rapidly gaining traction. Our data shows that 16% of U.S. households are watching pay-TV online as of September 2013 – representing more than100% growth since December 2012. We delivered 29.3 billion video streams to Adobe customers in Q3 2013 – up 124% year-over-year.

The conversations we are now having with our customers also suggest that the tipping point for mass TV Everywhere adoption is upon us. Whereas phase one of TV Everywhere was about “checking the box” to appease the pay TV operators, our programmer customers and pay TV partners alike are now focusing on growth with an emphasis on content discoverability, device expansion, and user experience. And most telling in my opinion, we are now getting considerable interest in our upcoming fraud limiting services to ensure people aren’t sharing credentials or otherwise trying to game the system. Considering the early critics questioned whether the traffic would come at all, it’s a nice twist that too much consumption has now become a concern!

Adobe&BroadcastWe’re thrilled to see increased momentum around TV Everywhere on the rise with Adobe Primetime helping pave the way for success. Within two years, we expect TV Everywhere will advance with:

  • Every major TV channel having a TV Everywhere presence via websites or apps
  • The reported 40% of Internet-connect TVs in U.S. households (LGR Research) will actually be in use
  • Content authentication being fully automated – removing consumers from the process

We also found that mobile video viewing is up more than 2x year-over-year (YoY). Consumers of video content via mobile devices are on the rise (see graphs below). An Adobe Digital Index review of 1 billion video starts to 50 branded sites shows that mobile video viewing is up 134% YoY with tablets growing the fastest up 150% YoY.

ADI - Share of Video StartsThe growing mobile audience provides incremental engagement and revenue opportunities for advertising. Tablet viewers, in particular, are early adopters who typically spend more money, book more trips, and consume more media content. Publishers can capitalize on this target audience with high CPMs (Cost Per thousand Impressions) and incremental impressions. Publishers may also consider creating more mobile-specific content to promote the use of mobile devices and further train consumers to use companion devices while watching a show live or online.

We’ve said that 2013 would be the year that TV Everywhere takes off and our forecast is holding true. Stay tuned for more updates and momentum coming as we head into 2014!

Adobe Advances Broadcast Creation to Delivery Workflows at IBC

This week at International Broadcasting Conference (IBC) in Amsterdam, Europe’s largest show for broadcasters, Adobe’s video solutions team is showing off new versions of Flash Media Server and Flash Access, continuing to innovate on new, streamlined solutions for businesses to stream and protect premium video content. A highlight of both new products is enhanced support for mobile platforms.

With Flash Media Server (FMS) 4.5, media publishers can extend their already broad mobile reach via Flash-enabled devices, with the new ability to deliver video content to Apple’s iPad and iPhone devices, enabling them to reach the widest audience possible. Adobe’s Kevin Towes writes more about what’s new in FMS 4.5 on his blog.

Adobe Flash Access 3.0, a robust content protection and monetization solution, will enable content owners to deliver on-demand content with massive scale and strict studio-level security across a broad range of devices, following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11 and AIR 3 (release candidate versions are now available for download on Adobe Labs). More info about the latest enhancements in Flash Access can be found on Florian Pestoni’s blog.

Watch this video from Adobe’s Pritham Shetty where he discusses Adobe’s video solutions news at IBC, including Flash Media Server 4.5, Flash Access 3.0 and momentum for Adobe Pass—a solution for broadcasters, programmers and content portals to seamlessly and securely establish a user’s entitlement to premium content anywhere, anytime and on virtually any device:

If you’re attending IBC, stop by the Adobe booth in Hall 7, Stand 7.G27 and follow the Flash Platform Facebook and Twitter channels for updates on news from the show.

Flash Player 10.1 with Flash Access support is live

Today, Wednesday June 10th, 2010, marks the general availability of the final release of Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe AIR 2.0.

In addition to providing a number of performance and user experience enhancements, these client runtimes were the last remaining pieces in the Flash Access 2.0 technology stack. As reported here, the back-end components shipped a month ago on May 10th so adopters could start developing content protection solutions based on Flash Access, using the public beta of Flash Player.

With the general availability of FP 10.1 with support for Flash Access, consumers have access to technology that will allow them to watch more premium content online. In addition, a number of other distribution and monetization technologies from Adobe, such as HTTP Dynamic Streaming rely on this Flash Player/AIR release. Other complementary offerings, such as the Open Source Media Framework, have also shipped recently.

Together, all these technologies will work together to enable new opportunities for monetization and highly interactive experiences while providing robust content protection. This represents the result of collaboration across several teams at Adobe who worked hard to bring this technology to market and advance the state of the art in video distribution.

It will be interesting to see how quickly this version of Flash Player gets adopted. With every Flash Player release, the adoption cycle keeps getting shorter. For instance, when Flash Player 10 was released, it had roughly 50% penetration within two months, and had passed 85% penetration in about 8 months. That’s penetration in all Internet-connected PCs, Macs and Linux boxes. How’s that for reach and consistency? If Flash Player 10.1 achieves that kind of penetration in less than 1 year, I believe it will be the most widespread DRM technology ever.

You can read details about other enhancements in FP10.1 on the Flash Player blog.

Florian Pestoni
Principal Product Manager
Adobe Systems
twitter: @florianatadobe

Reshaping video distribution … again

Since we launched Flash Access 2.0 at Streaming Media East on May 10th, things have been extremely hectic. During the weekend I was able to catch up on my blogging and wanted to provide a quick update for those of you following this space.

I’ve been spending some time on the road, and will continue through the month of June, helping people understand how Flash Access can help them with content monetization. This included a week in Hollywood meeting with the major studios and some online service providers; we walked away with a strong sense of support for the technology being used for premium content. Requests for information continue to pour in from around the world. Frankly, the level of interest in Flash Access has exceeded our expectations.

But it isn’t just about Flash Access. Adobe is, once again, changing the content distribution landscape with a number of technologies that are becoming available this month. Last week we put the finishing touches on HTTP Dynamic Streaming, Adobe’s technology to enable streaming experiences (fast start, trick play, network DVR and multi-bitrate support) using standard open source HTTP servers for both live and video-on-demand services. This technology, which will be supported by the major Content Distribution Networks, enables massive scalability by leveraging the existing installed base of HTTP servers.

We also released version 1.0 of the Open Source Media Framework. By creating a standard framework for development of video-rich applications on the Flash Platform, we are making it easier for content providers to monetize content while reducing the development time. Perhaps more importantly, OSMF enables easy integration of plug-ins from the ecosystem of partners offering everything from ad placement, measurement, optimization, etc.

And then of course there are Flash Player 10.1 and AIR 2.0, both in final stages of beta. These new versions of our runtime are taking Flash Player to a whole new level of content protection, with built in support for Flash Access on PCs/Macs. In addition, there’s a big push to bring the power of Flash to other devices, including smartphones, tablets and TVs.

So how does all this come together and what does it mean to you? Flash Access 2.0, Flash Player 10.1, AIR 2.0, HTTP Dynamic Streaming and OSMF 1.0 can be combined to create a rich and secure experience, with low cost and high revenue potential. Who would say No to that?

One question I keep getting is whether Adobe is discontinuing RTMP/RTMPE. That’s not the case. For a lot of people, Flash Media Server, SWF verification, RTMP (Real Time Media Protocol) and its secure counterpart RTMPE will continue to be the best solution, eg to create interactive experiences with data flowing in both directions.

A concern I’ve heard from some people is that Flash Access is “too heavy” when all you need is some sort of “lightweight protection”. I think this is at least in part a perception issue based on people’s experience with traditional DRM systems. It is also important to consider that in order to enable access to ever more desirable content (eg higher resolution, earlier release windows), content owners expect a higher level of robustness.

One of the reasons for the widespread adoption of RTMPE to protect premium streaming content has been its simplicity, scalability and user experience. We have taken steps to make sure that remains the case when using Flash Access, whether it’s used for streaming of live content with HTTP dynamic streaming, for VOD or for electronic sell-through models requiring download with local playback. But that’s the topic for another blog post some other time.

Florian Pestoni
Principal Product Manager
Adobe Systems
Twitter: @florianatadobe

Flash Access 2.0 ships – come and get it!

Today at Streaming Media East in New York City we announced the commercial availability of Adobe Flash Access 2.0. Flash Access is a content protection and monetization solution that is part of the Adobe Flash Platform and can be used for streaming or download of protected content to a browser or application. The client runtimes, Flash Player 10.1 and AIR 2.0 will be available shortly, with support for Flash Access on Windows, Mac and Linux computers.

For the Flash Access team, this represents the culmination of many months of hard work to create the next gen content protection solution. We have received very positive feedback from customers and partners and look forward to seeing adoption by the ecosystem.

Flash Access can be used on its own, e.g. to protect content delivered over progressive download, or in combination with other Adobe video distribution technologies such as Flash Media Server or HTTP Dynamic Streaming that enable the best possible end user experience.

Ultimately, the purpose of content protection is to enable content providers to strike the right balance between access and control. By providing flexible mechanisms to support business models such as subscription or rental, Flash Access creates new opportunities for media companies to realize new sources of revenue and for consumers to gain access to compelling video content that otherwise would not be available online.

In the enterprise space, where video content is increasingly important for use cases ranging from company meetings to training, Flash Access can help secure these video assets and preserve confidentiality were required.

To find out more about Flash Access, please visit our product page at http://www.adobe.com/go/flashaccess.

Florian Pestoni
Principal Product Manager
Adobe Systems

Content protection with Flash Access for live video streaming

A question I get asked a lot is whether Flash Access will support live streaming. The short answer is Yes.

The slightly longer answer is that Adobe’s HTTP Dynamic Streaming solution, which combines the best of Flash Media dynamic streaming technologies with the vast installed base of HTTP servers, will support both VOD and Live audio/video streaming, and relies on Flash Access for protection. All of this is coming together soon with the upcoming release of Flash Player 10.1.

So how does this work? For a more complete description you can read an earlier post, but here I wanted to provide a simplified description. The image below may also help.

3747_Dynamic_Streaming_Diagram_small.jpg

Imagine you’re running the output of a camera that is capturing a live event through an encoder; the output of that encoder will be a stream that can be piped through Adobe’s live packager for HTTP Dynamic Streaming. If you are using content protection, this packager will fragment and encrypt the content the content on the fly, resulting in MP4 fragments with a protected payload.

Now the fragments can be propagated to a distributed HTTP cache and down to the client without having to worry about protecting the access to the fragments, since each one is persistently protected. On the playback side, the client pulls down the fragments, obtains a content license from the corresponding license server, and then stitches together the fragments, while decrypting the content securely in memory on the fly.

For these applications, we have created a high performance, horizontally scalable license server that can deployed in a distributed environment to provide the best support for lots of concurrent users. In combination with other techniques such as secure client-side license caching, this can result in a highly scalable solution for live streaming.

Florian
Twitter: @florianatadobe

Irdeto announces support for Flash Access

Things have been very busy here at NAB. Today Irdeto announced support for Flash Access as a hosted offering, allowing companies looking to monetize online video content to outsource most of the operations required for content protection.

This will result, amongst other benefits, in a faster time to market and more effective content monetization. By relying on a trusted partner with secure, worldwide operations, content providers can focus on creating a great user experience.

Adobe and Irdeto are demonstrating Flash Access at our booths in NAB — if you are attending, come check it out and ask questions.

Florian
Twitter: @florianatadobe

Flash Access 2.0 Shipping in May + Adobe Sponsoring DRM Conference

It’s been a long road, but we are in the final stretch to ship our next-gen content protection product, Adobe Flash Access 2.0, next month. We are seeing a lot of interest in the product from partners and customers waiting for Flash Access to fill a need for stronger content protection in Flash Player and enable new monetization strategies.

We have been in private beta for some time now and have received great feedback from partners who have helped us improve the product. We look forward to continue working with them as they deploy Flash Access, whether internally for their own use or as the technology for enhanced content distribution and monetization services.

Some of you may be familiar with the work we are doing around HTTP Dynamic Streaming (aka “Project Zeri”). What you may not know is that this technology is designed to work in conjunction with Flash Access to enable protected HTTP streaming for both Live and Video-on-Demand online video distribution.

You’ll be hearing more about Flash Access and HTTP Dynamic Streaming in the weeks and months to come. I’ll be at NAB next week, with presentations at the Adobe booth scheduled for Monday and Wednesday at 9:30 AM. Then it’s off to Streaming Media East in NYC next month.

I’ll be back in New York in June for the Copyright and Technology Conference, which Adobe is sponsoring. I’ll be moderating a panel on Best Practices for Monetizing Premium Video Content, where we are planning on having some great speakers; more on this later. There are other panels that also promise to be very interesting.

If you are planning on attending any of these events, feel free to stop by to say hi.

Regards,
Florian
Twitter: @florianatadobe

The Ownwall: Is 'own-to-stream' the new 'download-to-own'?

When MP3s first came on the scene, some industry observers doubted they would ever catch on because, so the argument went, music lovers would not trade the “physical experience” of a record or CD for the empty, unsatisfying experience of a virtual good that could be electronically downloaded. Well, we know how that one turned out for music.

The video download business, on the other hand, has not fully made that transition. Sure, people do download movies, from both legitimate and illegitimate sources, but the vast majority of video distribution (in the broadest sense of the world) outside of cable/satellite is still based on physical goods, whether rented at the supermarket or bought out of the back of a van.

With increasing bandwidth, emerging media home networking standards, and ever-lower storage costs, it would seem that we are on the verge of the “download-to-own” and “download-to-rent” markets taking off, right? Well we’ve been on the verge for a while now, and I don’t think it’s a matter of technology. What if that’s the wrong model for video content?

In the meantime, streaming has emerged as the distribution model of choice for short-form video, including user-generated content: YouTube serves 1B streams per day. Increasingly, streaming video is also extending to TV programs and feature film, ie professionally-produced, long-form content. In the US, Hulu alone sources roughly 1 billion streams per month. Traditional broadcasters around the world (including the BBC) are also getting in on the action, with TV Everywhere, Catch-up TV and Over-the-top being variations on a common theme.

As more and more consumer electronics devices have built-in Internet access, whether it’s a $69 broadband box or a $1,000 Connected TV, we are getting to the point where accessing content in the cloud is not only technically feasible, it is just much more convenient. No longer having to move files around, I can access the content wherever I may roam.

There is still much room for business model innovation. “Paywall” seems to be the buzzword of the month. (Whatever happened to “subscription”?) Time-based access such as rental also lends itself to streaming. But there is also an opportunity to use streaming for content that users have “bought”, although not too many people seem to be using this model yet.

Think of it as a permanent right to access the content you’ve bought, without being burdened by moving files around. I call this the Ownwall. The greatest consumer benefit is that the content is available wherever there is an Internet connection — and these days, in most areas you need to try hard to go somewhere where there isn’t one.

A couple of industry initiatives like DECE and KeyChest are promoting the notion of a “rights locker” that keeps track of all the content you’ve bought. Maybe this is just me, but the term “rights locker” elicits some negative associations — smelly socks and athlete’s foot. What did my rights do wrong to get locked up? My reservations with the terminology aside, if successful these initiatives will represent a step in the right direction. (Nyuk, nyuk. Get it? The right direction. I crack myself up sometimes).

Consumers will be able to aggregate the content they purchase from any participating retailer and download it to their devices. DECE goes beyond this by defining their own media format and enabling content downloaded to one device to be side-loaded to another device, as long as it is in the user’s “domain” of approved devices. (Full disclosure: I represent Adobe in DECE; however, the description provided here is based on publicly available information.)

Now, if all content lives in the cloud and I can stream it to my notebook/netbook/tablet/smarphone/smartbook/connected TV/[add device not yet invented here], then maybe all of this could be a lot simpler. I could go around buying content, and have instant access to it on any Internet-enabled device. Interoperability is handled in the cloud, which is not as daunting as it sounds, since in practice there really aren’t that many complete platforms for video distribution out there.

But wait, there’s more: as the technology gets better (more interactivity, higher resolution, 3D, 4D, holodeck), so can my content experience. I don’t need to re-download, because I never downloaded in the first place; the next time I go to watch the movie, I am pleasantly surprised by the upgraded experience.

Most of this is possible today — well, maybe not the 4D stuff. There are still some open questions, such as “How can I be sure I can go back 20 years from now and still retrieve my content?” (I would answer that one with another question: do you use Gmail?) Or “What if I’m on a plane or in a submarine and can’t access the Internet?” (I say design for the main use case and accommodate the corner case, not the other way around.)

At the end of the day, consumers will provide the answer. As technology/content providers our role is to enable and experiment, and then let the market decide. What do you think will be the predominant model? Is ‘own-to-stream’ the new ‘download-to-own’?

Florian
Twitter: @florianatadobe

Understanding Adobe's Content Protection Offerings

As we discussed in a previous post, content protection is a key tool that can be used to monetize premium video online.

Adobe offers a couple of ways to achieve this; which one you use will depend on your specific needs, content and infrastructure. In this post, I describe some of these options at a high level, hopefully addressing some of the misconceptions (or is it FUD?) that exist out there.

For those of you who use Flash Media Server to stream content to Flash Player, in addition to advanced features such as Dynamic Streaming you have the option of also using the built-in content protection features. These are in vary broad use today by some of the leading streaming content providers around the world, [[[[including Hulu, Amazon and M6 —- TBD can we use these here? It is easy for anyone to see that they are using RTMPE so we’re not giving anything away that could help a hacker]]]].

The first of these features is RTMPE, the encrypted version of Adobe’s Real Time Media Protocol. RTMPE provides session-based protection, which means that all data between client and server is encrypted using a different key that is negotiated for each “session”. RTMPE will encrypt all data that goes in the “pipe”, whether it’s video content, data or headers. This is used to block tools that intercept the stream or try to impersonate a valid client in order to make unauthorized use of the content, such as making an unprotected recording (aka ripping).

In addition, FMS also supports SWF Verification, which is used to limit playback of the content to only the video player applications (SWF) that have been authorized. This works best when used in combination with RTMPE: once a secure tunnel has been established between client and server, the Flash runtime computes a hash of the video playback SWF that’s running and then sends that hash securely to the server, where it is compared against a list of approved SWFs; if there’s no match, the connection is rejected.

If this isn’t your first time on this blog, you’ve probably seen other posts regarding Flash Access. To recap, Adobe Flash Access is an advanced content protection solution that we are rolling out in the first half of this year and will work with Flash Player 10.1 and AIR 2.0. (This product was initially launched under the name Flash Media Rights Management Server, but the 2.0 version will adopt the new name and a much improved architecture.)

Unlike the features described above, content protection using Flash Access is not tied to FMS; while you can use both products together to get all the benefits of streaming plus advanced control over content consumption, you can also use each one independently. For instance, you can use Flash Access to protect progressive downloads or with the upcoming HTTP Dynamic Streaming (formerly “Project Zeri”).

With Flash Access, the operating principle is a bit different than with RTMPE. The content is persistently protected, ie it is encrypted once and remains protected wherever it goes. This makes it cache-friendly: whether the content is cached at the edge on the CDN or in the browser cache, it is encrypted and does not represent a security risk. Flash Access also allows you to define a number of usage rules, which are enforced by the client and can help support your business model, whether it’s video on demand, rental, subscription or download to own, to name a few of the more popular models out there.

This requires a few changes to the content workflow: encoded content must be run through a “packager” that encrypts the content. The packager is fileformat-aware: rather than blindly encrypt headers and metadata, it creates a valid file (e.g. F4V) with an encrypted payload. This means that the files can be streamed or downloaded like any other file over any protocol, whether it’s RTMPE, HTTP or something else.

However, once the content arrives in the player, you have the bits but not the rights to play the content. This triggers a request to a “license server”, hosted either by the content distributor or by a service provider on their behalf. The license server will only issue a content license, which contains the key necessary to play back the content, to clients “in good standing”, ie it will reject attempts from rogue clients.

SWF verification is also supported, but now the “whitelist” of approved SWFs can be included in the content license and is enforced by the client. All the the really sensitive operations, such as cryptographic operations or rules enforcement, happens in the native code in the runtime where it is difficult to hack. The application or ActionScript code acts as a sort of remote control, triggering operations such as license acquisition and registering to receive events that may be surfaced to the user.

I hope this provides a good overview and helps identify when each technology may be most appropriate. If you’d like to learn more about the content protection features in FMS, check out the article on Adobe Developer Connection. You can also find more details about Flash Access, including an in-depth whitepaper, on our product page at http://www.adobe.com/products/flashaccess.

F
Twitter: @florianatadobe