Adobe, Time-Warner

Last night Adobe and Time-Warner announced “a strategic alliance to foster collaboration on the development of next generation video and rich media experiences.” There has been much discussion already.

I don’t have any privileged information on the details. Here are some of the points I’ve been left with, after reading coverage and interviews today.

  • There are some big properties involved here… Time-Warner includes Turner Broadcasting System (CNN, Headline News, TBS, Turner Network Television, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Boomerang, NBA TV, TruTV, Turner Classic Movies, more), Warner Bros. Entertainment (studios, movie, TV, animation, interactive, thewb.com, more), and Home Box Office. It’s a big deal.
  • There’s not much information yet on which properties will do what. One of the few quotes I read was here: “Of the three properties, the initial one to witness a real benefit will be Home Box Office. Time Warner said that HBO.com would soon be relaunched ‘making extensive use of the Adobe Flash Platform’… The alliance is worth noticing in part because the three Time Warner divisions in question pose three very different technology use cases and possible revenue models.” That’s Time-Warner’s story to tell.
  • There are three particular areas of collaboration noted in the press release: “As part of the alliance, these companies will also collaborate to accelerate the development of digital rights management for the Web and desktop, and metadata and audience measurement solutions to improve the discovery and monetization of content.” Rights-management, analytics, and metadata… improvement is needed in all three areas.
  • Why is metadata important? Here’s an example. One CS4 feature which has been flying under-the-radar so far has been the speech-to-text capabilities in Adobe Premiere Pro CS4, and how this text metadata can then be manipulated by Adobe Flash Player. The result is similar to what Reuters has described for a new project: “The Thomson Reuters service has features that allow especially fast access to specific pieces of video, whether produced in a studio or recorded at a conference or a hearing. Each video is accompanied on screen by a searchable transcript, with a set of key words highlighted at the top. Clicking anywhere on the transcript causes the video to jump to that point.” Video-with-metadata becomes “rich video”, enabling “Rich Video Applications” in a way that cannot be approached by flat, atomistic video files alone.
  • I got some perspective into Time-Warner’s possible priorities from Saul Hansell at New York Times, based on an interview with CEO Jeff Bewkes: “Here’s how ‘TV Everywhere’ would work: an individual, or a member of a household that subscribes to cable, satellite or any of telco’s TV offerings, would be able to have online access to the programming included in their pay-TV package. With broad industry buy-in, it wouldn’t matter if your TV provider is Verizon FiOS, Time Warner Cable, or DirecTV. You log in, put in some subscriber information for a pay-TV operator, and unlock a host of shows not currently on the web, such as HBO’s ‘The Wire’ or TNT’s ‘The Closer.’ For 85% of U.S. households, the added access would be, essentially, free. Mr. Bewkes said he anticipates there will be a web-only option for those who don’t have pay-TV service.”
  • This is bigger than Flash. As Fritz Nelson mentions: “These three divisions are going to use pretty much every piece of Adobe’s Flash and video platforms (as Adobe touts it: ‘from planning to playback’).” Take a fresh look at CS4 Production Premium… it’s not just video-editing and effects, but goes all the way from pre-production and shooting tools like OnLocation through distribution packaging with Adobe Encore… with XMP metadata accompanying the assets every step of the way. The “Flash video ecology” has a whole back-channel of production support in the world today. (See video primers for more info.) This is about much more than a browser plugin.

What Time-Warner seems to be doing is to make it your subscription to their production, regardless of device, regardless of pipe. They’re trying to find a sustainable way to create big-budget entertainment.

The flashy details of how a webpage looks or the functionality in a cross-OS desktop app are interesting, but it’s really the realworld production pipeline behind it that makes the whole thing possible.

Interesting news. Will be fascinating how it turns out.