Adobe Primetime & Turner Broadcasting: “Scale and Execution, Exactly Like TV”

As a lifelong sports fan, I get excited about working alongside the world’s largest media companies to make it easier for viewers like me to watch more events on more screens.

When Adobe Primetime first launched, we helped NBC Sports and the BBC bring the London 2012 Olympic Games to viewers everywhere. Adobe Primetime pay-TV pass (formerly Adobe Pass) has been instrumental in bringing the 2012 and 2013 NCAA basketball tournament to college hoops fans. Now we’re helping deliver NBA games to viewers who want to check in with their favorite teams and players when they’re not in front of a TV set.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve continued our work with Turner, rolling out dynamic ad insertion in NBA games streamed to TNTDrama.com, TNT’s mobile apps, and and TNT Overtime, showcasing Adobe’s deep expertise in live TV broadcasting to devices and desktops.

Outside the sporting arena, as it were, we’ve also helped enable the AdultSwim, Cartoon Network and TruTV apps for linear simulcast programming. A recent article in Adweek highlighted some of the innovative work the Adobe Primetime team has been doing with Turner to drive more revenue by expanding their breadth of advertising opportunities across screens, at scale.

The Adobe Primetime team is continuing to expand the product offering’s capabilities to address additional business needs and use cases. We look forward to working with more broadcasters, cable companies, satellite providers, telcos and industry partners to help make every screen a TV. As Seth Ladetsky, SVP for Turner digital ad sales commented to AdWeek regarding the development of digital ad opportunities, “If you look at the scale and execution, this is going to be exactly like TV.”

NBA-on-TNT

BBC: “The biggest broadcasting event in our 90 year history”

A blog post from the BBC Director General Mark Thompson has paid tribute to the Olympian efforts of everyone at the BBC who delivered what he calls “the biggest broadcasting event in our 90 year history” referring of course to the 2012 London Games.

The opening ceremony entered the record books as the most-watched programs in the history of the BBC, and figures across all 24 channels of sport were astonishingly high.

While the top ten events took most of the internet feeds, 50 percent of consumption was for ‘less popular’ events, validating the BBC’s decision to have all sports, all the time, with rewind and catch-up capabilities.

There was also clear evidence of viewers taking the Olympics with them throughout the day. Looking at how people were accessing the BBC coverage online, PC usage peaked at lunchtime, mobile peaked after work around 6pm and tablet use was highest around 9pm. These truly were the world’s first digital games.

More interesting details pointed out by the BBC include:

- The Opening Ceremony drew a peak broadcast audience of 27.1 million people (including the red button), of which 9.2 million were via the mobile site and 2.3 million on tablets
- On the busiest day, the BBC delivered 2.8 petabytes, with the peak traffic moment occurring when Bradley Wiggins won Gold and it shifted 700 Gb/s
- Chapter marking enabled audiences to go back to key event moments instantly – receiving an average 1.5 million clicks per day – 13,000 clicks alone for Bolt’s 100m Final win
- The first week of the games was the most popular ever for BBC Sport Online with a total of 34.7 million browsers 50 million requests for the BBC Sport’s live video interactive streams and more than 106 million requests for BBC Olympic video content across all online platform
- BBC Sport Online’s most requested live video stream was of the Tennis Singles Finals, where Andy Murray and Serena Williams were victorious.

Changing the world through digital experiences requires a shared vision. By working with the BBC, an organization with a mandate to push technology boundariesand introduce innovative new services to its viewers, Adobe and all the broadcast partners have delivered an incredible feat of broadcast engineering both online and on devices.

As a publicly funded service, the BBC has delivered tremendous value to UK citizens, not only via traditional broadcast, but also through the delivery of the games online and across devices. Adobe, through elements of Adobe’s Project Primetime, is extremely proud of the role it played in helping the BBC deliver its outstanding Olympics coverage and of the deep partnerships formed with the BBC’s Future Media team.

Some nice user comments we’ve seen:

I think that I just got a lifetimes value from my license fee in 2 weeks!! – Mike Thomsett

I’ve always thought the License Fee was worth paying; now I think that more than ever. The BBC isa credit to Britain and sets the standard to which broadcasters around the world aspire…Thank you BBC, I have fallen in love with you again – Andrew McNeil

We would like to congratulate the BBC and its leadership for the vision, collaboration, passion and drive that has set a new bar for broadcast, extending far beyond what we know today as “television”. London 2012 has set the stage for every broadcaster around the world to bring TV content and new digital experiences online.

Adobe’s Project Primetime Powers BBC’s Coverage of the Olympics

Earlier this month, NBC launched two Olympics apps that are powered by Adobe technologies and built on Adobe AIR, Adobe’s Flash runtime for mobile apps.

Today, we’re excited to announce that the BBC is leveraging key components of Project Primetime in their live and video on demand (VOD) coverage of the London Games. The content is being delivered through a new, HTML5 app built with Adobe PhoneGap, Adobe’s tools and framework for creating cross-platform HTML5 apps for smartphones and tablets.

The BBC employs Project Primetime to power its coverage of the Olympic Games and other major sporting events to millions of mobile and connected devices across the UK for the first time in history. Positioned as “the Digital Olympics” by the BBC, we are happy to provide some of the core components required to deliver on their vision.

Several Adobe technologies are being used to power BBC’s coverage of the Olympics. Adobe Media Server prepares the content in using both the HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS) format and the HTTP Live Streaming format (HLS) to stream live and on demand video across desktops, connected TVs and iOS devices. Adobe Media Server is also used as a video origin to feed video across content delivery networks to meet capacity requirements.

To ensure an uninterrupted viewing experience, Adobe worked closely with the BBC to provide adaptive bitrate video playback technology built using the Open Source Media Framework (OSMF) that we have updated to ensure that video re-buffering or stream disruptions are limited as the video leaves the broadcast center and reaches the consumer device.

Primetime Highlights will also be used to power the rapid conversion of live video to on-demand clips. This allows audiences to experience interesting moments throughout the games, even if they cannot watch it live. Primetime Highlights can ingest pre-encoded video streams and quickly re-assemble them into clips with full adaptive bitrate support and made available to the audience quickly. This technology has been completely integrated into the BBC’s data management flow, so the video experience will be supported by synchronized data about the sport and the athlete.

Launching m.flash.com & BBC iPlayer for Android

m.flash.com

We have released Flash Player 10.1 to our OEM partners in what has been an incredible engineering effort working with our Open Screen Project partners.  One of the problems with the Flash Player generally, is that it is invisbile.  As a user its so easy to forget that a single web technology is powering billions of videos, games, Rich Internet Applications and now desktop applications with AIR.

So we have been working with the worlds leading content providers, alongside our OEM partners to create experiences that shine.  With that, we’ve aggregated these together over at m.flash.com so that you can enjoy them on your mobile phones.  I think it will really help to sell those mobile and device projects that we’ve all been thinking about.

iPlayer

If I’m honest, this is the one that I have been most excited about, and this week the BBC launched iPlayer 3.0. with support for Android Froyo devices and Flash Player 10.1.  As I live in the UK, and I know many of you don’t, let’s take a look at just how huge the service has become.

Simply put, iPlayer is like Hulu for BBC content providing video on demand services for UK citizens.  Using the service we can watch BBC content that we’ve missed, across 10 TV channels and 11 radio stations.  On top of that, we can also watch TV live using iPlayer online to work around poor terrestrial signals – or in my case, a tiny television :-)

In perspective (BBC iStats for May 2010)

  • 130m radio and television streams watched, across PCs, consoles and mobile phones
  • 13m live streams were broadcast, including a huge amount of live radio proportional to video streams
  • 6.5m video/radio requests from mobile phones
  • Peak usage tracks linear broadcast usage almost exactly – the shape of things to come :-)

Currently the iPlayer is available on the Nintendo Wii, PS3, Mac, Windows, Linux, Symbian, Windows Mobile and iOS devices.  As you would expect, when it comes to scaling the iPlayer platform across all of these devices, the task is huge.  That’s where Flash comes in, if you look at the list above (and more still) we have demonstrated Flash on all of them.

When you test your Flash-enabled site, why not let me know?  Let’s add it to m.flash.com :-)

Flash on your TV today

Following a recent operation on my back to correct a slipped disc I’ve had to spend a considerable amount of time laying down; this in turn lead me to really use some of the TV catch-up and on demand services offered by the UK broadcasters on my laptop as I didn’t have convenient access to the TV.

Impressed at quite how much content I could watch over the internet, I then started to seriously explore options for getting internet-delivered content through our main 42″ Toshiba LCD screen; the thought of being able to explore a back-catalogue of programmes that are automatically stored by the broadcaster, rather than relying upon me to setup recordings using Sky+ was particularly appealing.

So, off I went (with a slightly improved back)… and I have to say the whole process was actually far easier than I’d imagined; I bought a new Mac Mini with bluetooth keyboard and mouse, connected it to the TV using DVI->HDMI and audio cables, added it to the wireless network and then installed Flash Player and Adobe AIR. Done, nothing else required.

Adding Flash Player enabled me to watch streamed content from all the BBC channels via iPlayer, from Channel 4’s On Demand service 4OD and from Demand Five, Five’s catch-up service – all of which combined gave me a choice from 1000s of hours worth of TV.

BBC iPlayer - version for large TV screen

With the addition of Adobe AIR I was able to use the BBC’s service to download and store programmes for an extended period of time (30 days rather than the 7 for the streaming service) – I’m hoping that in the medium term the BBC might enhance this offering further to automatically download series that I like so that they’re ready for instant playback, but I guess I’ll have to wait for that :)

If that wasn’t enough I was also able to watch paid-for TV programmes and select from both new-release and classic films from BlinkBox, a UK-based service that streams content using the Flash Platform.

BlinkBox offers paid-for streaming of TV and Films using Flash

In terms of free programming, the BBC service undoubtedly offered the best quality with regular streams at 1500kbps and HD streams at 3500kbps – both looked really good even scaled up to 1920 x 1080 and were certainly indistinguishable from the quality offered by over-the-air or satellite TV. In fact, if you’ve ever questioned Flash Player performance on a Mac, take a look at full-screen streamed HD content playing back on a low-spec Mac Mini – it is really impressive. Only Channel 4’s service left me disappointed in terms of quality, the video really isn’t encoded at high enough a bit-rate to watch on a large TV without obvious distortion, but maybe there are commercial reasons for this decision.

I’ve been running this setup for about a week now and am still really impressed by how the experiment has gone, so impressed in fact that I’ve come to several conclusions:

  • other than for watching breaking news I have no need for broadcast TV
  • internet-connected TVs are the future and the future is not that far off
  • multi-screen services really do need discrete user interfaces – one size fits all does not work

Each of these conclusions raised a number of interesting thoughts… firstly, I’m amazed that the recent Digital Britain report didn’t propose a radical redefinition of the BBC license fee. Right now, a household requires a TV license only to watch broadcast TV in the UK, not to own a television – using this setup and switching to an alternative source of ‘live’ news I’d technically no longer require a TV license. My aim is not to evade paying for a TV license, but rather to suggest that the ‘value’ is in the content that I’m consuming, not the distribution method. It feels to me like a re-think will be required as to how the UK population are asked to pay for the (generally) great output that the BBC produces.

The main factors I see that will significantly affect consumer take up of “next generation TV services” are provision of high-speed broadband (I am fortunate to get 7.2Mbps out of the quoted 8Mbps on my phone line) and cost of the hardware required to access and playback content. For the tech-savvy, purchasing a Mac Mini (or if you must, a low-cost Windows Media Centre-equipped PC) and connecting it up is all well and good, but really this needs to be “plug and play” or built in to the TV itself – hopefully the work that Adobe is doing with set-top box and TV manufacturers as part of the Open Screen Project will help to make watching Flash-delivered video content just that simple and projects such as the proposed BBC “Canvas” platform will make low-cost, wide-scale distribution of network-equipped set top boxes possible.

Finally, whilst I’m happy to percivere with using a wireless keyboard and mouse to navigate web pages to access content, we are going to need specific UX expertise for TV-based interfaces, just as we will for mobile – again, I think Adobe can help by providing frameworks (Flex) and tooling that provides consistency in the process for creating, developing and testing user interfaces, but a one-size-fits-all approach design isn’t going to cut it. My wife still isn’t completely sold on my new “toy” because it is harder to use than the Sky+ PVR…

There are no doubt exciting times ahead for designers and developers who’ll see the range of content, services and devices continue to expand, but equally there are going to challenges for those who provide infrastructure to support this vision and those who need to charge for content.

So, if you’ve got some spare cash and want to get Flash on your TV today then this is a great setup; wait a bit longer and hopefully it will come as standard right out of the box :)