Adobe Primetime and the Single Publishing Workflow

Today there are different video formats to target various platforms, which invariably lead to increased storage and delivery costs, redundant workflows, and reduced scale due to caching inefficiencies. Complex workflows boost operating costs, which can prevent reaching all potential users.

For example, if it’s required to deploy four DRMs, three streaming protocols, three ad insertion technologies to reach all devices and users, and the video playback itself on the devices is not consistent due to fragmentation, it can become too expensive to deploy and maintain. The compromise is to settle on a subset of devices, which will limit your reach.

Adobe Primetime, now generally available, is committed to helping programmers and distributors reach, monetize and activate audiences across screens. This is due to having a single publishing, protocol, DRM, CVAA-compliant closed captioning, and ad workflow to reach all users across all major devices.

To simplify delivery workflows, we are enhancing our protocol support with Adobe Primetime: 

  • Adobe Primetime Player will support HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), in addition to the existing HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS) on the desktop
  • HLS will be available on all Adobe Primetime Player mobile platforms
  • Support of  MPEG-Dash in the future

All platforms and protocols support all Adobe Primetime Player features, including:

  • Seamless Ad Insertion
  • Digital rights management (DRM)
  • Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) compliant closed captioning
  • Enhanced video analytics

Desktops / Android

Desktops and Android devices will both include a full HLS (v4) video stack. It will specifically address the video playback fragmentation challenges on Android with its low-level integration, and provide high-quality video playback on all Android 2.3 and 4.x devices with the Adobe Primetime Player.

iOS

Adobe Primetime uses the native HLS video stack on iOS. Adobe Primetime DRM and Ad Insertion are fully compliant with Apple’s video guidelines.

Other

Future mobile and digital home support will offer all Adobe Primetime features, and can be targeted with a single publishing workflow.

We are very excited to help simplify the publishing workflow with Adobe Primetime, and provide the best possible reach and user experience for the next generation of online video content.

New Primetime Logo

Adobe Primetime Ad Serving with IAB VAST 3.0 and VMAP 1.0 Support

Adobe is continuing to invest heavily in our core ad serving capabilities with the general availability launch of Adobe Primetime. As part of our ongoing efforts to lead the industry in video monetization for content programmers and distributors, we’re rolling out significant enhancements to Adobe Primetime Ad Serving (fka Adobe Auditude) to comply with the latest VAST 3.0 and VMAP 1.0 standards. We’re excited to be the only video ad server in the market today that’s capable of both generating and reading VAST 3.0 and VMAP 1.0 ad calls.

The IAB’s Video Ad Serving Template, or VAST, was developed to provide publishers and advertisers with a common language for video player technology. In parallel, the Digital Video Multiple Ad Playlist, or VMAP, was created to detail ad insertion possibilities in instances where a programmer doesn’t control the video player or end-point distribution channel for content it owns.

The purpose of these two standards is to make video advertising more scalable and straightforward for industry participants, and Adobe is happy to announce that our Adobe Primetime Ad Serving is fully VAST 3.0 and VMAP 1.0 compliant. It is capable of both generating and reading VAST 3.0 ad calls, and allowing for inventory rights sharing among programmers and distributors with VMAP 1.0.

Before the introduction of VAST and VMAP, publishers using different players for different playback environments required advertisers to create unique ad responses for each site or device they wished to target. This created significant operational headaches, and limited the amount of money that media buyers were willing to spend on digital video. While earlier versions of VAST allowed advertisers to address these challenges, the standard also laid the groundwork to enable content programmers and distributors to communicate among themselves more efficiently. VAST 3.0 builds further on this foundation.

The latest versions, VAST 3.0 and VMAP 1.0, add a number of features and enhancements, including new details for the ad response format and how video players interpret and return signals to and from an ad server. According to the IAB:

With VAST 3.0, video players now have the ability to declare which ad formats they support. Five formats are provided as options: Linear Ads, NonLinear Ads, Skippable Linear Ads, Linear Ads with Companions, and Ad Pods (a sequenced group of ads). Skippable Linear Ads and Ad Pods are new formats offered with this release. Some video players choose to only support certain VAST ad formats in accordance with their publishing business model. With VAST 3.0, the guesswork of which VAST ad format a player supports is eliminated.

The VAST ad-­serving process when ads are served directly from a publisher’s system to the video player (Image credit: IAB)

The VAST ad-­serving process when ads are served directly from a publisher’s system to the video player (Image credit: IAB)

And:

With VMAP, video content owners can exercise control over the ad inventory displayed in their content when they can’t control the video player, to capitalize on advertising while maintaining the integrity of their program content. VMAP enables the content owner to define the ad breaks within their content, including the timing for each break, how many breaks are available, what type of ads and how many are allowed in each break.

A simplified example of the VMAP serving process (Image credit: IAB)

A simplified example of the VMAP serving process (Image credit: IAB)

The primary advantage of VAST 3.0 is that it enables monetization of breaks with multiple ads via a single ad call. This third-party ad server can control the entire ad experience for the break. In combination with VMAP 1.0, this is ideal for full-length TV episodes, which typically have several breaks with more than one ad, and for which inventory splits between the programmer and the distributor are common. With the prior versions of VAST, the ad server could only request and respond to one ad at a time – it wasn’t possible to efficiently support breaks with more than one ad. VAST 2.0 was built for short clips, but VAST 3.0 has been designed for true broadcast-to-IP TV.

Without a VAST 3.0-compliant ad server, a broadcaster will typically have to manually traffic ads against individual ad positions in a single commercial break to prevent an ad from appearing more than once. Implementing competitive blocking and enabling robust analytics and forecasting are similarly labor-intensive. This presents a trafficking nightmare for ad operations – and doesn’t scale.

VAST 3.0 and VMAP 1.0 are especially important for driving broader adoption of TV Everywhere because these protocols enable shared inventory rights between programmers and distributors. Inventory rights sharing requires interoperability between partners’ video players and ad servers, which VAST 3.0 and VMAP 1.0 provide. A distributor who deploys and controls the video player typically has to call a programmer’s ad server to insert ads that the content partner has sold. For example, a programmer may give two of every 20 minutes of ad space to a cable operator for local spots; this type of inventory sharing is made possible with VAST 3.0 and VMAP 1.0 redirects between the content programmer and distributor’s ad servers.

Global broadcasters and distributors like NBC and Comcast are increasingly turning to Adobe Primetime for its unified workflow across publishing, advertising and analytics. Adobe Primetime now features the industry’s only video ad server that can both generate and read VAST 3.0 and VMAP 1.0 ad calls, making the process of fully monetizing broadcast video even simpler for both content programmers and distributors.

Monetize your AIR applications with Melrose

Melrose – the monetization service previously known as Shibuya – is now live on Adobe Labs. If you were at MAX last year you probably remember the demo I did in the keynote on day 2. With literally just a couple lines of code you can add a complete license manager and payment solution to […]

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

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

In-Game Payments with Flash and Social Gold

Gaming is obviously a huge part of the Flash marketplace and luckily this year we as a company have started to acknowledge that and hopefully address developers needs. Part of that was the Flash CS5 support for creating iPhone applications. Another is the “Shibuya” try/buy service that we have which allows developers to much more easily monetize their AIR applications (and thus AIR-based Flash games). But the coolest thing is seeing the ecosystem grow up around this. A great example is Social Gold.

Social Gold takes the monetization of Flash content to the next level by allowing users to make in-game purchases. They’ve got an API that lets you do everything from micropayments to recurring subscriptions. They’ve got a good demo of the workflow on their site. They handle all of the credit card processing so it’s relatively straight forward to include the Flash code in your application and start accepting payments. The revenue split is about 90-10 so seems very fair.

All of the samples are for games, but there’s nothing to prevent this from going in any other type of Flash application so it’s a very interesting way to monetize Flash content in the browser or on the desktop with AIR. One of the main issues is security. Because SWF files can be decompiled, there’s the potential for problems if you try to embed secret keys inside of your Flash application. This can lead to a spoofing attack where a malicious SWF file gets your information and authenticates against Social Gold’s system. Social Gold attempts to solve this by keeping the keys on the server only and just passing session variables back and forth. I’m not a security guy, so I won’t comment on the implementation, but it seems like a reasonable approach considering the security constraints of Flash.

We saw with the iPhone how important it is for developers to monetize content and so it’s great to see more opportunities to do that come to the Flash Platform. I think 2010 is going to be a big year for small Flash shops or individual developers who want the freedom of making a living on the Platform.