Author Archive: Florian Pestoni

Flash Access powers the first-ever UltraViolet release by Warner Bros

This week marks a major milestone in the development of UltraViolet, the cloud-based system for delivering premium video across multiple devices and platforms. Earlier this week, Warner Bros released the first-ever UltraViolet title — protected with Flash Access and playing on a Flash-based app powered by AIR.

To put this in a historical context, a lot of work from many companies went into making this possible. Adobe is a founding member company of DECE, or Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, an industry consortium representing more than 75 leaders from the content, consumer electronics and technology worlds including Microsoft, Intel, Netflix, VUDU, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros, Comcast, Best Buy and others. Almost 2 years ago, we announced that DECE had adopted Flash Access as one of the approved content protection solutions for the emerging format and system for premium video. A bit later, the consumer site was launched under the brand name UltraViolet. And then at the beginning of this year UltraViolet was declared “open for business”. Rolling thunder, but still no content.

This all changed with the release earlier this week of “Horrible Bosses” and “Green Lantern”, available today on Blu-ray and DVD. In addition to playing the disc at home, consumers will now have the ability to access the movie digitally from the cloud. More titles from Warner Bros and other studios will be coming soon. This is made possible through the groundbreaking Flixster Collections app, which helps users manage and view their video collections whether it’s files on their hard drive, UV rights in the cloud, or titles watched on multiple streaming services. This Flash based app is delivered as an AIR app, allowing for multi-platform portability. And now it can also stream Flash Access protected UltraViolet content to Flash runtimes, the number one platform for premium video online.

Fortunately, this is only the beginning for Warner Bros and for the industry. In the past month, Adobe has released Flash Access 3.0, Flash Player 11 and AIR 3, which together enable the creation of UltraViolet-compatible apps and websites, including distribution of content in the UVVU Common File Format to desktop, mobile and TV devices. Expect to hear much more about UltraViolet as the Hollywood marketing machine kicks into high gear and the broader ecosystem of retailers, service providers, device manufacturers and content owners continues to roll out innovative solutions around this new format.

Florian Pestoni
@florianatadobe

Flash Access 3.0 Launching Today at IBC

I just arrived in Amsterdam to help with the launch of Flash Access 3.0, the evolution of Adobe’s premium content protection solution. For those of you who read this blog, you’ll know that Flash Access is a studio-approved content protection and monetization solution used by many of the leading content providers. With this new version, we are dramatically expanding the device reach and introducing features to enable emerging use cases. Let’s walk through some of these changes.

As we had anticipated, Flash Access will now be supported on mobile devices, including a number Android tablets and smartphones as well as other devices such as RIM’s Playbook device. While the commercial availability of the client runtimes will need to wait until the upcoming release of Flash Player 11 and AIR 3, we have been in prerelease for a while and working closely with a number of customers on this. With the immediate availability of Flash Access 3.0, customers can begin deployment and be ready by the time the clients ship later this year.

With Flash Access 2.0, our primary focus was on video-on-demand use cases. Now with 3.0, we are extending this to linear content, in a model that we refer to as TVoIP. This will enable both established MVPDs/PayTV operators as well as programmers looking to “go direct” to consumer devices with the equivalent of TV channels. This gets extra interesting as we introduce this capability in the upcoming AIR 3 for TV — customers can now offer a TV-like experience, on a big-screen TV, going over IP either in a managed network or over the open Internet.

Another key forward-looking enhancement is that Flash Access 3.0 will allow content retailers and service provider to create UltraViolet experiences. If you’re not familiar with UltraViolet, it is a cloud-based solution for content distribution that helps remove many of the barriers that exist for great digital content experiences by improving compatibility between devices and content retailers. Adobe is a founder in DECE, the entity that is creating UltraViolet, and Flash Access had previously received the nod from the studios as one of the approved technologies.

With Flash Access 3.0 and the upcoming Flash runtimes, it will be possible to offer a full UltraViolet experience, including support for centralized device domains and playback of content in the UVVU Common File Format, on the vast number of devices that support our platform, while also offering premium features such as rich interactivity.

There’s a lot more than I can cover in this blog post. If you’re at IBC, stop by the Adobe booth and somebody will walk you through a demonstration. Tell them you read about it on the Flash Media blog!

Florian
@florianatadobe

IPTV is dead, long live TVoIP

For more than a decade, we’ve been hearing about the impending replacement of traditional video distribution methods with a new, better system called IPTV, for Internet Protocol Television. This was supposed to bring a large number of new features to the managed networks and associated set-top boxes used by telcos and pay TV operators. There have been several successful deployments, notably AT&T’s U-verse, but the promise has been largely unfulfilled: we haven’t seen the innovation that was supposed to be brought about by this technological change.

In the meantime, innovation has been on overdrive on the open Internet, both in terms of technical advancements and business model developments. The last few years have seen the emergence of large-scale streaming from companies like Hulu and Netflix, “catch up” services such as the BBC’s iPlayer, indie movies from new sites like SundanceNow, access to long-tail content via YouTube and others. The range of devices used to access this content over the Internet have also expanded to include PC/Mac, smartphones/tablets, and even TV sets, BluRay players and set-top boxes. In this space, Flash is the #1 platform for online video, enabling unparalleled reach and interactivity.

Today, this “over the top” distribution is primarily about video-on-demand. This meets consumers’ desire for time- and place-shifting, with the convenience of watching a movie or program on each viewer’s own schedule and on the device of their choice. However, the underlying technology has now evolved to the point where “linear content”,  the industry term for TV channels that play 24×7, can also be delivered in real time over the top, opening drastically more flexibility for consumption. We anticipate that over the next few years, there will be a major shift from traditional television delivery over managed networks to distribution over the open Internet. And with Internet-connected TV sets getting smarter and more powerful every year, such as those running Adobe’s Flash/AIR runtimes for Digital Home consumer electronics products, consumers will be able to “watch TV” with radically more options for content sources and with a richer user experience.

We call this TVoIP or TV over Internet Protocol. This is meant to be much more than a mere transposition of the IPTV acronym; it is an intentional reference to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), which we believe is a very good analogy of the changes that are underway in the video space. In the case of VoIP, which reached mainstream availability over the last decade, at a bare minimum it had to offer the equivalent level of service to the technology it was attempting trying to displace. For telephony, the legacy technology was switched voice, where bandwidth was allocated to each phone call; while this continues to be in use, VoIP is now widely available worldwide from a large number of service providers. However, replacing one transport technology with another is only the beginning; VoIP has made possible significant business model innovation, additional services such as speech-to-text and text-to-speech, and expansion to new points of consumption.

TVoIP will allow pay TV operators who are still using “traditional” technologies such as DVB or QAM for switched digital video distribution to leapfrog over companies that have adopted IPTV. On the other hand, IPTV providers can leverage their investment and extend that to open Internet delivery. But that, again, is just the beginning.

With TVoIP, distribution is largely decoupled from the actual delivery infrastructure, so we can expect to see an explosion in the sources for TV-like experiences. Any content aggregator with access to premium content can offer TV programming directly to consumers, under a variety of business models including advertising, subscription, and surely others that have yet to be invented. If the introduction of cable and satellite made it possible to go from four networks to hundreds of TV channels by changing the economics of content distribution, TVoIP will usher the era of tens of thousands of channels that can be arbitrarily “niche” — think of it as the long tail of television.

The user experience is also guaranteed to be very different from the traditional “switched” experience. For starters, consumers will have greater choice over which devices they use to “watch TV”; these devices are likely to be purchased at retail stores, offering an alternative to leased set-top-boxes. Interactivity will go well beyond channel up/down or the EPG grid, enabling rich interactions with content as well as with other users. Content and advertising can be personalized to a degree that neither switched nor IPTV delivery can support today.

There still remain some significant technical and business challenges to make this a reality. The current network infrastructure for consumer Internet delivery may not be capable of carrying this amount of content economically without some significant changes in business model. For instance, today Netflix’s VOD distribution accounts for around one third of all Internet traffic at peak time, according to some measurements. However, online video watching accounts for only about 5 hours a month for the average consumer, compared to close to 5 hours a day for “traditional” TV. There is a 30X gap between the two, and TVoIP aims to close that gap, which will only exacerbate bandwidth requirements. Telcos are already looking at models to monetize this increase in bandwidth requirement, which will be necessary in order to fund the network expansion required.

Another significant aspect has to do with content rights and the technologies used to manage and enforce those rights. Traditionally, rights for linear delivery have been negotiated separately from rights for Internet delivery, but that model is already being tested by a number of companies willing to push the envelope … and ruffle some feathers in the process. On the technology side, traditional “conditional access” providers have dominated the protection of content distribution over managed networks, but have not been able to make serious inroads into protection for Internet delivery.

Technologies such as Flash Access, which already meet stringent studio requirements for premium content, are achieving incredible reach on consumer-owned devices (and, increasingly, over operator-owned equipment such as set-top boxes). The upcoming version of Flash Access will incorporate significant new features to enable large scale protection for linear content, greatly expanding the type of experiences and business models that can be offered over the top.

The roll out of TVoIP will not happen overnight, and we don’t anticipate that traditional distribution technologies will be turned off any time soon, but the evolution to this model seems inevitable. Adobe’s Flash Platform is well positioned to help accelerate this transition and we are already working closely with early adopters to make TVoIP more than just a soon-to-be catchphrase.

 

Florian Pestoni
Media & New Technologies
Twitter: @florianatadobe

Flash Access in your hand(held)

Flash Access is gaining momentum with content/service  providers, and is coming to mobile devices, including Android tablets and other mobile platforms, in the second half of 2011. This will extend the opportunities for monetization of premium content to more points of playback and will help consumers enjoy premium content on (most of) their favorite devices.

Flash Access is a studio-approved content protection solution for content monetization. It is part of the Flash Platform, enabling seamless access to premium video content with rich interactivity and multi-screen support. Other content protection solutions work primarily as silos, offering content only on certain devices or from certain content providers. With the Flash Platform, the same content can be deployed across multiple screens.

In the few months since Flash Access launched in mid-2010, there has been strong adoption worldwide, which is now supported on well over 85% of all Internet-connected computers. In a previous post, I mentioned that Flash Access protected content was also supported in AIR for TV, the Flash-based application framework and runtime that has been optimized for Internet/Smart TVs and broadband-enabled BluRay players. Now with the announcement of upcoming support for mobile, content providers will be able to target over a billion multi-screen devices from dozens of manufacturers with a single back-end.

I often get asked who is using Flash Access. The answer, of course, changes quickly as there has been rapid adoption. So far, content providers have deployed services offering premium video from Hollywood blockbusters to independent films, with additional uses in enterprise, government and education sectors. Use cases include streaming, download and even peer-to-peer, with monetization through a combination of rental, electronic sell-through and subscription in addition to advertising-funded models.

In addition to working directly with content providers (see some below), we have also been working closely with our partner ecosystem to enable a faster time to market and ease of integration. A number of service providers, from Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) to Online Video Platforms (OVP) have entered agreements to support Flash Access as a hosted option integrated into their infrastructure, thus allowing their customers to easily leverage the robust content delivery made possible by Flash Access. Some of these partners include Akamai, Brightcove, Limelight, Neulion, Origin Digital and thePlatform.

Here are a few really cool examples of companies using Flash Access today. We’ll be showcasing Flash Access at the Adobe booth at NAB, feel free to stop by. If you have licensing enquiries, please visit our licensing portal or email flashaccesslicensing@adobe.com.

 

VUDU

VUDU has licensing agreements with every major movie studio and dozens of independent and international distributors to offer a large library of movies, including the largest 1080p library of video on-demand movies available anywhere. VUDU is a subsidiary of  Walmart.

“VUDU delivers the best streaming movie experience available on more than 300 devices – from HDTVs and blu-ray players to the Playstation 3.  We are also working with Adobe to support Flash for PCs and Macs using Flash Access,” said Edward Lichty, VUDU’s General Manager.  “We’re looking forward to expanding our collaboration with the upcoming release of Flash Access for mobile devices, which will ultimately enable us to deliver our best-in-class streaming service to consumers on the go.”

 

SundanceNow

SundanceNow is the place to watch independent films online. Instantly watch HD streaming video of new releases and hard to find films from around the world.

“Our clients take their commitment to content creators very seriously,” said Marc Sokol, Executive Vice President, Marketing and Business Development at Neulion. “In choosing Flash Access we are giving content owners, like those showcasing their amazing independent films on SundanceNow, the confidence that their content will not only be securely delivered but also properly monetized through our service, no matter which device our customers choose to watch on.”

 

Voddler

Voddler is an online video service based in Scandinavia and an early adopter of Flash Access. They have successfully integrated Flash Access with their distribution infrastructure and their AIR-based application. This allowed Voddler to secure content from content owners like Walt Disney, Paramount, and Sony Pictures.

“For both free and pay-per-view options, we have to reassure our partners that their content is properly monetized,” Anders Sjöman, vice president of communications for Voddler. “Adobe Flash Access helps safeguard our growing catalog of 3,300 titles and supports a variety of business models.”

 

Florian Pestoni
@florianatadobe

Flash Access in your living room

Today during the Adobe MAX developer conference in Los Angeles, we announced availability of AIR for TV, bringing the Flash Platform to digital home devices such as Internet-connected TVs, BluRay players and set-top boxes. Check out more details on Aditya’s blog.

If you were not paying close attention, you may have missed this: AIR for TV includes Flash Access. By providing support for content protection on these devices, we are working with our partners to bring premium content via the Flash Platform to a broad range of devices.

And where would great video content look better than on a big display in your living room?

Florian Pestoni

Principal Product Manager

New White Paper on Protected Streaming with Flash Access

We have just uploaded to our website a white paper I’ve been working on for a while with some colleagues. We wanted to focus on the use of Flash Access for protected streaming. It’s available off of our product page, or you can just follow this link.

You’ll need to read the actual white paper to get the full story, but here I wanted to comment on how we are extending the term protected streaming to include not just the traditional RTMPE method but also the newer, more flexible and more robust Flash Access.

Although the details of these technologies differ, both can be used to securely stream content online. RTMPE has been widely used to date to create a secure pipe for content; technically, we refer to this as “session protection” because it establishes a unique session key between client and streaming server and basically encrypts all data going over that connection using the session key.

Flash Access, on the other hand, provides “persistent protection”, meaning that content is protected once and stays protected wherever it goes. This makes the protected content cache-friendly, allowing the whole file or portions of it to be saved into temporary storage –whether on a CDN’s infrastructure or on a user’s computer– without compromising the security of the content.

This method of protection is most often associated with a download model. However, Flash Access can be used for both download and streaming. There are some clear benefits to having one single content protection solution that can be used for various distribution models, over different transport protocols and with different monetization options like paywall, rental, etc.

In this new white paper we focus on some of the design features of Flash Access that make it a highly efficient and scalable solution for streaming applications, even those with a large number of simultaneous users. Because a given file is only encrypted once, you save CPU utilization at the time of streaming, and by making smart use of caches and packaging content into small fragments (eg using HTTP Dynamic Streaming)) this can be made to scale. In addition, the advanced architecture and key management for Flash Access allows you to run a stateless license server, which also results in very significant efficiencies.

Happy reading.

Florian Pestoni
Principal Product Manager
Twitter: @florianatadobe

DECE shifts to UltraViolet

Last week, an industry consortium in which Adobe is a founder made some significant announcements. I wanted to help readers of this blog parse the information that was shared and also provide the Adobe/Flash/Flash Access perspective.

The group is known as DECE or Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, and I’ve written about it before. As of this week, we’ve announced a much more user-friendly brand, UltraViolet. From a purely personal perspective, I have to say that this brand is growing on me — the geek in me likes the implied “beyond blue” (read Blu-Ray). There’s even a website, www.uvvu.com and an associated logo.

You may be asking yourself: So… what does this really mean to me? I think the biggest winner here is the consumer. The model behind UltraViolet, and its main reason for existence, is to create a more seamless experience for purchasing/enjoying premium digital content. In the UVVU universe, a user can buy devices from different retailers and have it play on different devices.

This seems like a pretty obvious thing, but today’s electronic content distribution ecosystem based on silos where a device is “captive” to a given content service does not reflect this. Imagine if you needed a stack of different DVD/BluRay players for content from different studios that you buy from different retailers. That would be crazy, right? Well, that’s the status quo today for electronic content distribution, which UltraViolet hopes to overcome.

What’s in it for the close to 60 member companies from different industries participating in DECE/UVVU? Our shared vision is to create a much bigger pie for electronic content distribution (which today only represents a small percentage of all film/video content sold) by removing some of these artificial barriers. By creating the basic infrastructure, UltraViolet also creates opportunities for innovation in business models by everyone who wants to participate. (You don’t need to be a DECE member in order to offer UltraViolet products or services.)

Is this a done deal? My opinion is that it is still very early days for electronic content distribution in general, and UltraViolet in particular. I’m convinced that in the next several years we will see significant innovation in the content distribution space. In times of significant churn in business models, key players, technologies and consumer expectations, such as the one we live in right now, it is hard to predict what will become the new normal. I believe in the vision of UVVU, now we need to see some actual market adoption and see how well everyone executes to deliver on the vision.

From Adobe’s perspective, we see DECE/UltraViolet as highly complementary to our efforts to help drive rich user experiences around content. For instance, the Open Screen Project is an Adobe-led initiative with close to 80 members (many of them also participating in DECE) working together to help establish a consistent execution runtime across a wide range of devices.

More specifically, DECE’s adoption of Flash Access as an approved content protection solution means that UltraViolet content will be able to flow to Flash-enabled PCs and other devices. Flash Access 2.0 shipped in May of this year, and is supported in Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe AIR 2.0, which shipped in June. Conversely, the ability for people to create interactive experiences around UltraViolet content using the #1 platform for video on the Web means that DECE gets very broad reach right from the start. Everyone wins, especially consumers who will soon be able to purchase premium video without having to worry about which device it will play on. Well, mostly, as some device manufacturers may have their own reasons to not play in this ecosystem.

Florian Pestoni
Principal Product Manager
Adobe Systems

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