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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