Adobe Primetime Q&A with Andy Bell, Chief Engineer of Channel 4

As brows­er ven­dors demand changes to video play­er for­mats, broad­cast­ers across Europe are hav­ing to make the switch over from lega­cy sys­tems over to HTML5-EME. Adobe Prime­time is well posi­tioned to solve this chal­lenge, offer­ing an end-to-end solu­tion ide­al for part­ners look­ing for seam­less com­ple­tion, rapid turn­around and fan­tas­tic ser­vice – with Chan­nel 4 mark­ing Adobe Primetime’s first part­ner in EMEA.

Here, we talk to Andy Bell, Chief Engi­neer of Chan­nel 4 to find out why he select­ed Adobe Prime­time to be his part­ner of choice for such an impor­tant back-end chal­lenge.

Q: Tell me what the prob­lem was that you were try­ing to solve and the solu­tion you were look­ing for.

Andy: We’ve been using the Flash play­er to pow­er our All 4 web brows­er ser­vice for many years and have been very hap­py with that prod­uct and the ser­vice pro­vid­ed. Because of the change in the mar­ket and the shift in the rela­tion­ship with browsers and brows­er ven­dors, we were forced to look again at our video play­er tech­nol­o­gy and decide how best to migrate to HTML5. As part of that tran­si­tion, we were look­ing for a part­ner to help us make that switch.

Our award win­ning All 4 prod­uct includes a catch up ser­vice which car­ries all of our recent broad­cast pro­gram­ming, as well as a huge archive of clas­sic Chan­nel 4 pro­grammes and box sets. Addi­tion­al­ly, the All 4 Watch Live fea­ture includes stream­ing of all of our main broad­cast chan­nels, so we need a video play­er that is robust, reli­able and which sup­ports the wide range of rich func­tion­al­i­ty that we have built into the user expe­ri­ence.

Q: What was the process you used to find your desired part­ner for this project?

Andy: In 2016, when it became clear that the brows­er mak­ers were going to dep­re­cate Flash in the near future and remove plu­g­in updates we accel­er­at­ed our search. We ran a research based mar­ket review and then moved for­ward with a Proof Of Con­cept of the most appro­pri­ate can­di­dates. We eval­u­at­ed sev­er­al ven­dors at that time for both our VOD ser­vice and our simul­cast ser­vice.

Q: What was on your tick box in terms of when you were search­ing for the ide­al part­ner? What were the par­tic­u­lar things that you were hop­ing would make your pre­ferred part­ner stand out?

Andy: There were many, many things that had to be there but our three key require­ments that proved hard­est to accom­mo­date were a need for strong DRM based con­tent pro­tec­tion across the fea­ture set, rich mon­e­ti­za­tion options includ­ing dynam­ic ad inser­tion for both VoD and Simul­cast, and min­i­miz­ing the impact of change on our back-end ser­vices for both meta­da­ta and video pro­vi­sion­ing.

Q: Were you aware that Adobe offered a prod­uct that could meet your needs before you embarked on the POC?

Andy: We were aware that Prime­time was a strong can­di­date because we already had a strong rela­tion­ship with Adobe; we already use a num­ber oth­er Adobe prod­ucts and have always main­tained close con­tact with your senior tech­ni­cal peo­ple as well as with the com­mer­cial ser­vice teams. The Adobe team did a very good job of pitch­ing Prime­time through­out the process, pro­vid­ing clear respons­es and excel­lent guid­ance on how to get the best from the offer­ing.

Q: What made Adobe Prime­time stand out above the crowd?

Andy: There were two or three dif­fer­ent ven­dors that could have achieved the same end goal but  Adobe was the only can­di­date that could that pro­vid­ed a solu­tion with­out requir­ing us to rebuild our back­end and revis­it our approach to DRM as part of the ini­tial tran­si­tion. They pro­vid­ed an SDK so we could take the soft­ware devel­op­ment, wrap our JavaScript around that and run it into our front end with­out hav­ing to com­plete­ly rewrite all our ser­vices and change the way we devel­op our code. The process for inte­gra­tion and the mod­el that Adobe offered gave Chan­nel 4 the sim­pler solu­tion we were look­ing for.

Ulti­mate­ly, the inten­tion is that when we launch our HTML 5 offer­ing the fea­ture set and expe­ri­ence that view­ers get will be iden­ti­cal to the one they see today. For some­one in my posi­tion, pure tech­nol­o­gy invest­ment projects can be dif­fi­cult to jus­ti­fy so suc­cess comes when you make things as sim­ple as pos­si­ble — and not hav­ing to com­plete­ly rewrite our inter­nal code or our back­end sys­tems to cater for this change is a huge ben­e­fit.

Q: How long is this process going to take?

Andy: We are look­ing to deliv­er the change as quick­ly as pos­si­ble due to the ongo­ing uncer­tain­ty about when the brows­er mak­ers will adopt a stronger posi­tion on Flash.

Q: You said that you didn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly want to make the shift to HTML-5, but are there advan­tages for Chan­nel 4 in the long run by doing this?

Andy: We are actu­al­ly very com­fort­able with the move to HTML 5, but would have liked to have had more con­trol over the tim­ing of the tran­si­tion. We antic­i­pate effi­cien­cies of scale as we already use HTML 5 for some oth­er All 4 devices and plat­forms, and the move to DRM inde­pen­dent deliv­ery will be very wel­come as that has been a pain point for many in our indus­try for a long time. The selec­tion of Prime­time allows us to look at align­ment with the oth­er Adobe prod­ucts that we cur­rent­ly use so there are def­i­nite­ly advan­tages that we will look at in the future.

One Response to Adobe Primetime Q&A with Andy Bell, Chief Engineer of Channel 4

  1. Mirela says:

    Great inter­view! Thank you for a look inside this effort!

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