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

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

The formula for online video monetization

Most people will tell you that there is no standard formula for monetizing video online. I beg to differ, and here is what I think is an actionable formula:

M=R*(A+C)^E

I know, at first sight it reads like “miracle”, but I don’t think it takes a miracle to monetize video online. Here’s what the formula is trying to say:

Effective Monetization requires combining broad Reach with the right balance between Access and Control to offer a compelling user Experience.

The first variable, Reach, is an easy one to achieve: use Flash. It runs on over 98% of Internet-connected computers world-wide (PCs, Macs and Linux.) It is used for over 75% of video on the web. And the Flash Platform continues to evolve, with new versions being rolled out not just on desktops and laptops, but also tablets and smartphones (just not the ones you’re thinking of.)

Flash can also help you create a great user Experience, by enabling the development of rich, interactive applications and the use of dynamic streaming to adjust to changing bandwidth conditions.

That leaves the part about balancing Access and Control. All monetization strategies, whether it’s advertising, subscription (buzzword of the month: paywall), rental or electronic sell-through need some of both. Going too far in either direction is just not profit-maximizing.

And this is where content protection technologies such as Flash Access come in. By limiting unauthorized copying and redistribution and enforcing usage rules to support their business model, content providers can use Flash Access to help protect investments in content and technology. When used correctly, the vast majority of consumers won’t even notice that the content is protected in the first place.

F

Psyched about Partner Summit

Next week will be the Flash Media Distribution Partner Summit at Adobe. This is an event by invitation only, and it’s already oversold. It’s a great chance to meet with partners who are helping customers everywhere adopt Flash for their video distribution needs.

As usual, my focus will be on monetization: what are the emerging trends for ways to build a business around content distribution? I’ll touch upon some of the new industry initiatives such as DECE and KeyChest — unfortunately it’ll have to be pretty light on details due to confidentiality issues. And of course I’ll cover the work we are doing around Flash Access and how partners can participate.

Lastly, I’ve manage to stay up on my tweeting. You can find me at http://twitter.com/florianatadobe.

F

DECE Adopts Adobe Flash Access

The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) has selected the upcoming Adobe® Flash® Access software as one of the approved content protection solutions required for premium video.

Adobe is a DECE Founder, and there are over 45 companies from every industry involved in digital media participating in this effort. In case you haven’t heard of DECE before, it is a consortium of leading technology vendors, content providers, consumer electronics companies, and service providers working to enable improved consumer access to entertainment content.

I’ve been spending a lot of my time over the last year or so working in DECE with representatives of these various companies, so it was great to be able to announce a number of key milestones today. Adobe is pleased to contribute to the creation of a vibrant ecosystem that makes possible new ways to connect users with premium content. DECE’s adoption of Adobe Flash Access will vastly expand the reach for DECE content and generate new revenue streams for participants.

Flash Access software will allow retailers and content owners to utilize the Flash Platform to reach hundreds of millions of devices in a short period of time, enabling compelling end-user experiences. DECE’s approval also signals broad studio support for this technology.

If you follow this blog, you probably already know that the Adobe Flash Platform is a complete system of integrated tools, frameworks, clients and servers for the development of Web applications, content and video that runs consistently across operating systems and devices.

Adobe Flash Access 2.0, a key component of the Adobe Flash Platform, is a scalable, flexible content protection solution that enables the distribution and monetization of premium content. Flash Access 2.0 provides a way to combine the unprecedented reach and interactivity of the Adobe Flash Platform with robust security and flexible usage rules so that businesses can enforce necessary constraints, such as limiting viewing to a given rental period or set of devices.

As announced last year, content protected with Flash Access 2.0 will play on the upcoming version of Flash Player. Adobe Flash Player is on over 98 percent of connected computers and delivers approximately 75 percent of Web video worldwide. Major broadcasters and media companies including Hulu, Warner Brothers, MLB.com, and DirecTV use the Adobe Flash Platform, which also powers the popular social media sites YouTube and MySpace.